Friday, December 30, 2011

weekly gratitude

Once more, some time to be grateful.

  • for my Higher Power
  • for the only real friend that I have in this life
  • for my internet friends
  • my health
  • a wealth independent of material things
  • a desire to keep improving myself
  • empathy, intuition, insight
  • food and water
  • a warm camp
  • warm clothing
  • a creek to bathe in
  • my netbook
  • free wifi
  • Linux and free software
  • free and open culture
  • my Kindle and free ebooks
  • sunny days
  • Mexican breads
  • money in my pocket
  • nothing to spend it on
  • prepping for the road
  • life, freedom, sobriety

Thursday, December 29, 2011

hitchin' post: in the beginning

In the beginning there was desire. And from that everything followed.

I could go into all the events that led up to the point in my life where I found myself standing on the shoulder of a highway, thumb out, going somewhere. But that is neither here nor there. I would rather talk about the hitchin' itself.

At 53 years of age,  it is a reasonable guess that not too many folks would consider me a child. But standing beside that highway, cars flying past, sun shining down, I felt like a kid again. I smiled. I laughed. I did the watusi when no one was around. My heart was bright and my life was light as a feather. God, it's beautiful out there.

I had no money what-so-ever. A food stamp card with a final months worth of stamps -$200- was all there was to fall back on. Well, that and a faith in something more. That something you only encounter in tough spots, fox holes, giving up addictions, falling in love. That indefinable something that reaches out to bear you up, hold you close, and provide in ways miraculous.

My feet were shod in desert combat boots. Best boots I have ever owned. The pack was a well worn ALICE. Medium size. Steel frame suitable for sitting on for those extended spells of waiting for the next adventure to start. My roll was a combat poncho and liner. Not much, but it served. The rest of my gear was just as simple. Tools mostly. Multiplier, light sheath knife, folding saw. My roof when required would be a cheap brown tarp, and the stakes where aluminum gutter spikes.  A minimum of clothes, hygiene kit, and writing materials made up the rest. Oh, and lots of socks. I started out with a bottle of aspirin for my heart condition, but lost it somehow in South Carolina. I never found that I needed it though.

And so it began.

My final preparations have begun for a return to the road. Perhaps for a very long period of time. So, with that in mind, I have decided to relate the adventures from my previous time on the road. It was my intention to put this story together for an ebook. They are the in thing now ya know. Maybe I will anyway. But if it does not happen, then at least the posts that I will write here will be my record of something almost too much for mere words. I hope that my skill, such as it is, will be up to the task.

As life, especially mine, is well known for taking sudden unexpected turns, I want this stuff out there. I hope that the wonderful people I met in crossing and criss-crossing my country, will find there way to these words. My drivel may never do them the justice they deserve, but it is all that this poor nomad has to offer. That and my endless gratitude for the absolute best time I have ever experienced in my short spin on planet earth. I hope that you will find the stories as endlessly fascinating and entertaining to read as it was for me to experience them.

Travel in peace.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

through another's words

Sometimes someone will say it better than I can. Like this:

Travel in peace.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

a bit of gratitude

As usual my cup runneth over:

  • my Higher Power for being always there no matter what
  • my one real friend that never let's me down 
  • my online friends for their insight and wisdom
  • ten years of sobriety
  • health and well being
  • release from a stressful non-relationship
  • food and water
  • a warm camp
  • warm clothes
  • fresh air and sunshine
  • a creek to bathe in (brrrrrrr)
  • Dial soap for lathering in cold water
  • hot coffee
  • money in my pocket
  • my netbook
  • Linux and free software
  • Kindle and free ebooks
  • Google plus and facebook
  • my creative muse
  • everyone who bothers to read my drivel
  • all the wonderful blogs I read every day
  • all the employee's of the local McDonald's (merry Xmas Angelo)
  • the San Jose library system, its employee's and the free wifi (thank you)
  • life, freedom, and sobriety
Travel in peace, and happy holidays.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

the zen of endurance

I have managed to stay in San Jose, California for a lot longer than I ever wanted. I was literally carried here on the wings of life's flow. I did not contemplate staying for long. Perhaps for winter only, then so long. But it did not work out that way. Instead, I have had the depths of my endurance plumbed. And it is not a nice thing.

I had been here around two months when the first real tragedy struck. My habit from being so long on the road was to make my camps near the highways. Keeping to my usual ways I found a pretty descent spot below an exit ramp. It was close upon the ramp, but do to a judicious arraignment of the bushes and trees, I was entirely hidden from view. One night I awoke to see lights flashing off the nearby sound wall and was startled to hear state trooper giving a sobriety test to someone not more than ten yards from my spot. But in mid-December the Cal-Trans came along and cut down the grass and cleaned up the area including taking all my gear. That meant the loss of my road journal, my Carhartt coat, pack  and its contents. I had been washing clothes so I did not loose them, none-the-less the loss was hard on me.

Then I had a very strange relationship with a woman that just turned into one heart break after another. At one point I loaned her my trac-phone to use for an important
thing she was trying to do. And she promptly lost it. Along with all the numbers from the wonderful people I had met on the road. She never even said she was sorry.

An opportunity came to move my camp from the road side. I had rebuilt there because Cal-Trans would not be back for at least another year. But a street friend tipped me to a place by a local creek behind an industrial plant. It was nice and green with gurgling water to lull me to sleep. That is it was nice till some kids came through and raided a couple of squats, mine included. They just got some recyclables and my leatherman, but that feeling of being violated is palpable in such cases. They never came back, but you get cautious. Then some land clearing started and I had to move camp down closer to the creek. I found a place that is just above the flood line, and off the nearby properties. It is nice, but not quite as private as one would like. Still, except for loosing some more recyclables, I have been left alone. Shame is, if the perps would have asked I would have given them the stuff. But such is the way the world is today. Selfishness just permeates everything.

A second, more promising relationship seemed to be in the offing during this past spring. The young lady was very interested, or so it appeared. Just as I was getting used to her and comfortable with the situation, because I kind of move cautiously now-a-days, another person decided to get in between us. I had thought the fellow all right at first, but then when the lady was not around but I was close enough to hear he began saying things that were not proper and it started pissing me off. A woman is not a piece of meat or a trophy. At least for me. I appreciate their warmth and I usually can talk to them about things that I would otherwise keep bottled up inside. But no sooner do I quit having any thing to do with this low life character, then he manages to worm his self into her good graces. Then it ended up becoming a zero-sum game. And that is not good.

It is not just pride, but the fact that no one who really cares about you will ever put you in such a position. They will not set it up to be an either-or situation. As this guy was apparently popular with some other folks that she worked with the lady in question did not want to drop him, and instead escalated things by spending her breaks and lunches with this heart robber. Things did not feel right or look right. To make a long and sad story short, it ended badly and so I have to now heal from this crap as well.

Add to all this  a lot of minor things that have taken place lately and it just gets to be all too much. Some times I wonder if there really is a higher power. I am also amazed at just how much crap I have managed to take and still retain an attitude of gratitude through it all. But I can feel the rising desire to just get the rest of  my gear together and start walking and hitching toward some other destiny. I guess I am just a bit worn out. Such is the shame of it. I landed here so very happy and my hand reached out to help. After getting it bitten so much it still reaches out, but much much more slowly. A few months on the road and I know my trust in my fellow man will be restored. It has a much longer way to go with my fellow woman.

Travel in peace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ten years of sobriety

Today I am ten years old.

My first step to a recovered life was taken ten years ago today on December 20, 2001. It was perhaps the best decision of my life. I had spent most of my adult life lost in a haze of alcohol. There had been the usual attempts to quit, but of course they failed. How do you just quit? Someone on the outside of the disease would not be able to fathom the idea that you can not just quit. Not after you become a full fledged member of the kingdom of Lord Bacchus. I know I most certainly was.

I am grateful that I came into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous when I did. I was on the cusp of the last real old timers. These guys didn't play. They knew what it was like to be a bottom drunk, and dealt with you accordingly. For that I am grateful. Today way to many "high bottoms" and treatment center quick fixes have entered the groups. In my opinion this has diluted and distorted the message. That may anger some folks, but I do not care. I am a fully recovered alkie. I got that from following the program as it is laid out in the Big Book. Not by following the party line of some treatment center, and not by having run scared of the bottle. My Big Book still states on the first page that "This is the story of how one hundred men and women recovered from alcoholism." Emphasis is added on purpose.

My drinking took it all. I sacrificed every good thing in my life to it. When I came to the program there was nothing left but jails, institutions, or death. I was hoping for the latter to honest. My resume has more than enough jobs to supply several lifetimes. I could never stay employed for very long. The myth that is often times repeated around meetings that drunks make good employees because they need the pay check to supply their habit had no apparent effect on my life. It was not uncommon to wake up in the morning fully intending to go to work only to find a left over brew in the frig and then ........

I wandered into the noon meeting at the Central Carolina group. I couldn't share much more than my name. Don't remember what they talked about. But after that meeting a couple of members took me to a small diner and gave me my first hot meal in a good long while. Bless them. I still offer to feed any one that is hungry, even those whom I do not have any particular liking for. My gratitude will never cease till my last breath.

From there it was a pain filled journey. A twelve hour night shift job did a lot to help me. You learn that you have to internalize the message and the meeting in order to go through long and lonely hours without any way of contacting others. I also found out just how immature and ugly some so called members in good standing could be. That is part of the learning curve. Not every one that goes each day without a drink is sober, even if it is for a long stretches of time. I have witnessed many unscrupulous sponsors. I have seen the results. But they are offset more than enough by those who truly have a newcomer's best interests at heart. Maybe you get what you need, even if it leads you down a wrong path. And relationships in AA are to be avoided if possible. Two sickies can't make a well. I know from experience!

Do the steps. They are there for a reason. I can't tell you just how many people have prolonged their misery because of inept sponsorship and a vague fear of working the fourth and fifth steps. I now believe that some folks enjoy being miserable and sitting on the pity pot. I thought only the normal people did that! A careful reading of the basic text will show you that the third step prayer has no "amen" at the ending. The seventh step prayer does. My sponsor, a wise and gruff gentleman from NYC, explained to me that this was because the next steps were to be done immediately after the third step without any flinching or hesitation until one finished at the seventh. No truer advice has ever been given. The feeling of freedom is no exaggeration.  It is immediate and life giving.

Almost two years in to my sobriety and I found myself on the eleventh step. I started doing some simple meditation. The effect was electric. I had experienced a number of "phenomena" before this time, but had passed them off as an after effect. It takes at least eighteen months for the booze to leave the spinal column. But what happened after I began this simple meditation program defies proper description. Suffice it to say that my life began to take a different path at that moment, but I was unable to see it at the time.

After my mind blowing "spiritual experience", I had a second life changing event. I woke up to an on coming heart attack. The story of how I managed to make it to the hospital and all the rest is so full of the miraculous that I have not the space to do it justice here. It would take too many posts to sufficiently cover it all. I will say that on the day of this event I did physically die. I was summarily brought back and after having a stent procedure I was sent home to finish healing. I survived but something within me had taken a severe blow. I spiraled into a depression.

 I went through a lot of hard times after my recovery from the heart attack, including a second stent procedure to redo the originals. I found myself unable to perform the job I was accustomed to. A final bad marriage and the loss of my remaining possessions only added to my problems. Through it all I have never wanted or desired a drink. Which is something that I would like to hammer home to any one who is wanting sobriety. You know you have it when there is no desire anywhere at any time under any circumstances no matter what. This is not dryness. This is sobriety. It is not some mystical state, or psychological phenomena, it is simply what you are: fully recovered. There is no fight, no exercising of that will power you never had to begin with. It is a true miracle in every sense of the word.

It might surprise some folks to think that I would still be sober after having gone through all the crap that life has dealt right up and into the present day. But the fact of the matter is that I do not desire a prop of any kind and in fact I very much enjoy my life just as it is. Because it is life. I get to feel, to be myself, to learn, to continue on the rocky narrow trail to whatever lies before me, and I get to fully experience each moment of it. No running away. I think that's a hoot. I chose life and that more abundantly when I dropped the bottle.

Who'd of thunk it that I, at the tender age of 51, would pursue on a journey that is normally the realm of the younger generation. Move over young'ns. I stepped out to the shoulder of the road, stuck my thumb out, and embarked on an adventure that has not stopped yet. That is what sobriety is all about. "We believe that our Creator wants us to be happy, joyous, and free." Amen. You may have an entirely different understanding of that quote from the Big Book, but to me it is a license to be myself. To enjoy myself. To live as fully and as completely as I dare myself to. I am grateful to be here and now, today. It just keeps getting better. It works if you work it!

For another take on life lived fully check out my friend Niall Doherty's latest musings. It is well worth your time.

Travel in peace.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

santa clara street, pt. 4

Previous installments: part 1, part 2, part3.

A number of neighborhoods stand along side of the Santa Clara. Most are quiet working class enclaves. Some are small business groupings. Others are full of small shops and numerous schools. A modern senior center and gym anchors the Roosevelt Park area. But there is a darker, sinister area as well. Over in the San Antonio 'hood, the dealers in slow death ply their trade, virtually unmolested. The place is a haven for heroin, crack, meth, and God only knows what else. I hate them. I have watched a dear friend of mine, my first friend on Santa Clara street actually, slowly deteriorate under the destructive effects of heroin. True, she was an addict long before I came on the scene, but the pain of seeing her mind and personality slowly disappear with every high is deeply felt by me. I silently weep for her.

On the opposite side of the Santa Clara, to the north, lies Julian street. Here once more you will find the usual collectives of apartments and small homes. But behind this facade lies the the pot smoker hangouts, and the taggers have the place covered in street art. Here too are the homeless in their semi-hidden jungles. And one will encounter that other life form so common in this type of environment: the thieves. I have lost a number of valuable items to these human rats, including at various times my good attitude. But what is to be expected of  a group that can not be bothered to put their trash in a receptacle right at their side, preferring instead to just drop it on the ground next to it. These kind seem to proliferate every where you go.

Walk through the better neighborhoods with an alert eye and you will find all kinds of fruit trees. I have personally enjoyed oranges, grapefruits, lemons, apples, plums, and avocados. Besides these there are several types that I cannot identify, but someone is apparently utilizing them for no fruit remains on the tree or the ground when it is ripe. What makes it such a treat is that the fruits appear in their appropriate seasons, which conveniently for me run roughly concurrent to each other. So the skillful urban forager can find apples still ripening right about the time the oranges start coming on, etc. Nice. There is one fruit that I try to avoid all together. That fruit is the product of the ginkgo tree. Now I have to admit that the brilliant golden leaves of the ginkgo are a must see in the Autumn, but the fruit that drops to earth from this tree has to be the stinkiest stuff I have ever come across. As I said, I avoid it whenever possible.

I never knew roses bloomed year round till I landed here. The bushes around the Five Wounds Church are a wonderful example, bearing blooms up to six inches across and in an amazing variety of colors. They stop blooming only when the bushes are trimmed back by the gardeners in early spring. Within weeks they put forth fresh buds. In fact the area of the Santa Clara and its environs are an amalgam of flowering plants, bushes, and trees, that delight the senses with an orgasmic display of color and form year round, even in the hardest cold. I want a camera just to record this fantastic sight.

Palm trees. The place is full of palm trees. Several kinds. And they are tall palm trees. There is one particular palm next to the bell tower on SJSU campus. It is many feet higher than the tower which appears to be over three stories tall in its own right. I had no idea a palm tree could get so tall. In fact I had no idea there were so many varieties. They seem impervious to the cold. And when the wind passes through their tops it reminds me of the sound of the sea. A soothing sound from my childhood. I could lay in bed of a night and listen to the heartbeat of the ocean come up from the ground and into my bed frame and through my pillow and thus into my ear. What a way that was to fall off into sleep.

The local branch library was my oasis when I first came to the Santa Clara. I was a stranger in a strange land. The little lady librarian, being much amused at my daily requests for a temporary pass to use the local computers, helped me get an official library card. The woman has since moved on from her post, but wherever she is now, I thank her for that bit of kindness. It meant the world to me. Computers and books. They are my hobbies and my tools. Now I could check out books, surf the net, and when I finally acquired my netbook, I could access the wifi. And not just at the local branch, but at the main library on the SJSU campus as well. That library has books that I really was not expecting it to have. A treasure trove of information. I am hoping that they will soon have books to lend for the Kindle. That will be a hoot.

Crossing the bridge over Coyote Creek takes you into the downtown area.  The Seven/Eleven's, Walgreen's and numerous shops and eateries. I must confess that I have never developed a great liking for large metropolitan areas, preferring instead to circumvent them whenever possible. At least till the flow of life brought me here, to the Santa Clara and San Jose.

MLK library on the San Jose State campus is superb. The city has several modern high rises, but it is not an LA or New York. It is home to the San Jose Sharks hockey team, who play at the very modern HP Pavilion, and may soon have its own football stadium. But what impresses me the most is how it has managed to keep a great deal of its Victorian architecture in tact. It reminds me very much of a larger version of my old hometown. It spreads out more than rises up.

City Hall is definitely in a world all its own. The architecture seems to have been inspired by both a computer tower and the Lick Observatory. The building style causes a self generated wind flow year round, which is a good thing for all the flags on the flag poles around the water feature in its spacious plaza. The plaza host numerous ceremonial events throughout the year and I have seen every thing from an Asian wedding to an Iranian religious event.  Most recently it hosted the occupy San Jose camp. I believe it must have been the most peaceful of all the occupy events. But that is the style in San Jose. You can be political and do it safely. Not bad really.

 I could go on and on about the Santa Clara and the "capitol of Silicon Valley." Perhaps I will at some future time. But for now I wish to close by saying: thank you Santa Clara, and all who live around you, for giving me, a total stranger, so much. I love you.

Travel in peace.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

the gratitude list

As always I have much to be grateful for:
  • a higher power that takes care of me
  • at least one flesh and blood friend that has never turned on me
  • a wonderful week
  • the rain this week
  • my needs taken care of
  • my wants taken care of
  • my internet friends
  • my netbook
  • Linux and free software
  • my kindle
  • free books
  • an early Christmas gift of getting to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie
  • good health
  • well being
  • a warm camp
  • warm clothes
  • a creek to bathe in
  • food and water
  • life, freedom , and sobriety

And to all those who take the time to read this: thank you.

Travel in peace.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

santa clara street, pt. 3

Before going on to describe some of the adjacent 'hoods that align themselves along the street, I have to spend some time indulging in the colors of the Santa Clara. By colors I deliberately mean those subjective sense colors that we are all familiar with. For example, every one knows what the color green smells like. That is what I'm driving at here.

Of course the area is vibrant with Spanish/Mexican type colors. Though they tend toward the earthy hues, it is not uncommon to be completely startled by an eruption of bright and brilliant combinations, especially among the younger folks. Otherwise, most people tend to wear black or browns as a primary dress. It can all get to feel a bit morbid after a while. I myself have taken to wearing darker patterns, mostly because of the desire to appear always neat and clean. But I confess that it is not my natural inclination, preferring instead lighter earth tones.

Beyond fashion, colors explode in the most unexpected ways. You can walk through neighborhoods of completely bland and neutral tones then be startled my the most garish spectacle of purple or green that one could ever envisage being applied to exterior of a domestic domicile. The automobile has also been subjected to various color combinations that would not necessarily find a natural affinity for each other any where else on earth. If it is not color then chrome. I must admit that I have never seen so many well restored and professionally chopped autos as you will find on any given sunny Saturday at Roosevelt Park. Real low-riders. Amazing.

The graffiti that adorns any unprotected space ranges from the cheap gang type to the most artistic and intricate I have encountered. Some of the small commercial panel trucks have just been left completely adorned in this layer upon layer of street art. They definitely stick out. I suppose the owners simply took the path of least resistance and allowed that it was cheaper to just let the stuff stand. Some of the graffiti has taken on mural proportions. Indeed the area has a great many such murals most of them executed on purpose. Three street bridges crossing Coyote Creek were at one point creatively decorated in ornate mosaics, and bright hues, but time and vandals have desecrated their beauty.

Nature adds her colors as well. The summer sun seems to burn with a bright white light, so unlike the yellow light of the east coast. Shade is very welcome in the summers, where the air can be as much as ten degrees cooler. Nice outdoor cafe weather. Mountains rise up to the east bearing a mostly tan and spotty dark green facade throughout most of the year. but with the return of the winter rains the hills become  covered in a vibrant bright grassy green. They may even sport a coating of snow once in while. When that happens the air becomes brisk and the good folks of the south bay will shiver until it melts away. Winter winds clear away the duller air and allows the bright white buildings of the Lick Observatory to shine in the sun high upon their perch on Mt. Hamilton.

And speaking of the rain, that is a rush all by itself. Always the early riser, it is my great and solitary pleasure to walk in the quiet that the pre-dawn rains bring. The glittering damp upon the fallen leaves, the muffled sounds, the fresh air, is for reasons unknown an exuberant delight to my senses. In summer the noise seems all pervasive, what with the traffic roar from the 101, the screaming ambulance and fire engines, the whining sirens of law enforcement, the jet planes leaving the airport, and the general hum drum of workers prepping for another day. But in the winter, when it rains, or the air turns brisk and breezy, the sounds become subdued, and I find that most precious of all jewels: silence. Or near nuff to it.

There is yet another color that delights me, the color of language. Spanish flows all around me. At first it was so foreign to my ears, but now it is a familiar tune, almost a musical piece, that has variety and texture, and even detectable accents! Then there is the expressive choppiness of the Asian tongue. So impenetrable yet somehow understandable through the gestures and body language that are an essential part of it. Being caught up in the constant ebb and flow of this verbal color I have began a journey that is leading me out of my cocoon of ethnic prejudices. Growing beyond the confines of my American identity I have found in these wonderful people the same human needs and desires, the same human expressiveness, that I am accustomed to within my own cultural enclave. Beyond all outward appearances we are truly, basically the same.

Next time: the 'hoods.

Travel in peace.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

santa clara street, pt. 2

The area is a composite of nationalities. If I had consciously tried, it simply would not have been possible to have located such an eclectic grouping of humanity. The place lends itself wonderfully to learning something about the world's multitudinous cultures before actually going there. A formula advised by Rolf Potts in Vagabonding.

A large Portuguese community straddles both sides of the 101 and centers itself around the Five Wounds Church, described in part 1 of this series. Surrounding them is a largely Hispanic community composed mostly of Mexican Americans, but also including fair numbers from all the Central and South American nations. Within this sea of Spanish are islands of Asians. The Vietnamese community is by far the largest of these, though the Japanese are well represented along with the Taiwanese, Korean, Chinese, and Filipino nationalities. Indian and Pakistani peoples as well as a smattering of Iraqi, Iranian, and other Middle Easterner's are not as common in the area but they make their presence felt none-the-less. If the world hummed along as well as this large multi-ethnic place manages to do every day of the year, it would be a better place by far.

My stretch of the Santa Clara has numerous small shops catering to every community around it. A favorite among newly arrived and local, traditional, Hispanic cooks is the Chaparral Super where nearly every strange and fascinating food from south of the border can be had. A personal fave. We have a Vietnamese butchers, several ethnic restaurants, auto shops, second hand stores, and of course palm readers and astrologers. The last seem to elicit  a superstitious fear in certain community members. Other businesses cater to more mundane tastes such as sewing, sawing, party throwers, and jewelry to match your vanity. In short, every thing a small community needs on a day to day basis.

But the real community anchor and focal point for nearly every one, is the local McDonald's. It is indeed one of the friendliest places around, with the nicest, if not most tolerant, employees and managers I have ever come across.They tolerate a lot, which gives the place an atmosphere that is hard to match. Every one in the community from old to young, well off to homeless, addict and mentally ill, straight and gay, finds a warm welcome. I have seen some shenanigans happen here that would not be tolerated most places, and I have been witness to some great fun as well. It is here I met my good friend Don. Though he has moved from the local area we still have a standing appointment to meet on Friday mornings and try to solve the worlds problems. The restaurant also witnessed my falling in and out of a rocky attempt at a relationship. It is a testament to the type of place that it is, that the other one and myself can still be  here at the same time and manage to be at peace all the same. The free wifi ain't bad neither.

Next time: a rush of color's.

Travel in peace.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

santa clara street, pt. 1

I'm strolling down the sidewalk of the main street that runs through my present life situation. That street is called Santa Clara. The Catholic saint's story can be read here. Interesting. But my attention is drawn to the street itself, not the name sake. More specifically, I am interested in the stretch that runs from the highway 101 overpass to the center of the city of San Jose, California.

How I came to be here is a story unto itself. Suffice it to say that a kindly gent had picked me up on the Embarcadero  ramp of the 101 in Palo Alto, and deposited me on the El Camino in Sunnyvale, with five dollars for the bus. And true to the map in the little rider's shelter, the 22 bus trundled to a stop and then bore me forth to my destiny. This crowded contraption was the first bendy bus I had ever seen, let alone had the privilege to be a passenger on. I had a freakish moment as it approached the city of San Jose and a woman that was the spitting image of my most recent ex wife boarded the thing. She even sported her specs upon her head in exactly the fashion of my ex. Talk about a heart stopping experience!. Thankfully the woman in question took a seat nearer the front and struck up a conversation with the driver. It was such an uncanny thing. Perhaps I should have taken it for an ill omen. But instead I silently marveled at the fact that there really are more than just the single copy of any of us at any given time on our strange blue world.

In good time the noisy carriage deposited me on the Alum Rock side of the 101 and I had the pleasure of wandering back across the overpass and back to the Santa Clara. If you ever happen to take this same stroll you will perhaps take notice of the strange temperature effect that happens here. The Alum Rock side is always colder in winter and hotter in summer. This effect stays in place all the way to the Coyote Creek bridge where one transitions into the downtown area. Interesting.

After a cursory examination of the ramp I decided to take a break for the remainder of the day and seek a place to camp, the day drawing down. Right upon the overpass is the magnificent Five Wounds Portuguese Catholic Church. A truly magnificent structure in its own right. After attending the local Catholic school back in my old hometown, I have an old fondness for the catholic churches. And this one does not disappoint. It has a style to it that is reminiscent of Spanish architecture, seen in its reddish roof tiles and white stucco finish, so very California-esque.  But there is a somewhat odd touch to it as well. Something that reminds one of the Orient. It is surrounded with magnificent palm trees and a large oak that I know from personal experience bears very sweet acorns that could easily be used in recipes. The Padre's rectory is surrounded by magnificent rose bushes bearing flowers of many hues and colors the whole year round.. Through some of those bushes approached the first person to greet me in San Jose.  A thin woman, Hispanic from appearances, but with cropped reddish hair, asking if I had a smoke. From her I learned that the Five Wounds is also notable for another important reason: they serve a lunch to any and all every single day of the year, holidays included. Bless them.

And so began my relationship to the Santa Clara.

To be continued......

Travel in peace.

Monday, December 12, 2011

run silent, run deep

The latest guest blog post on Leo Babauta's site Zen Habits written by The Minimalists has resonated deeply with me. Living a life with no goals, going with the flow each and every day, living contentedly and alive with passion, is the very thing that keeps me going each day.

I first encountered this phenomena while on the road exploring the western USA by hitchhiking. I had a general idea about the direction that I wanted to take and the basic route to get me there. But then I began encountering friendly advice from some of the kind folks that were picking me up. And I did something that was at the time very uncharacteristic of me, I listened and followed the advice trail. It was the best decision I could have made.

I ended up traveling a completely different way to the Pacific, and as a consequence, I met some of the greatest people ever to step onto the stage of my life, and had  the greatest of adventures that no amount of imagination could have dream't up. It became the default way of travel for me.

Combining this magical flow with my natural intuition and those flashes of insight that come in moments of need, and I have found a formula that works wonders even in rough going. It has helped me more than once to discover the good and detect the bad. I am grateful for that.

If life were all up and had no down then it would be even better, but unfortunately that has never been the case for me. Nor, I suspect has it been for you either. But out of all the ups and downs I have learned much much more than I could have possibly done by any other modus operandi. So, I guess that their can really be no absolute down in life, if you look at it in the right way.

At the present moment I have returned to a more solitary mode of living. Solitude has been my natural default way through life more often than not. In fact this period is part of a natural healing cycle in my life's flow. It is not a goal per se that I set for myself, that for such and such a length of time I will be a solitary individual, and after this set time I will be a social being once more. No, it does not work that way with me. It begins on its own and ends when it is finished.

I entered this period after a traumatic period of time that involved, of course, a woman, and the violation of the boundaries of proper conduct and descent behaviors by a third party. Which then became a bone of contention between me and this woman that I was interested in. I violated my intuition at first, which was constantly warning me about this lady and the other man. But having been alone for a good spell of time I chose to ignore the inner warnings. To make a long story short it all eventually ended very badly with a display of unskillful behavior on my part, something that now I must work out in this lifetime.

I relate all this not only to help myself heal but to demonstrate that following your own course and ignoring your inner voice will sooner rather than later lead to a bad ending. The living flow of your life will always be true to your inner most desires. It will take you where you would not naturally want to go, but where you are guaranteed to find exactly what you where looking for and more. Trust it.

Travel in peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

we are the purpose

Yesterday I read Niall Doherty's latest post. He was encouraging and uplifting as usual, but made the statement to the effect that life is pointless and then paraphrasing Viktor Frankl, that it is by giving life meaning that you make something of it. That has been rolling around in my mind for a while. I just can not agree. I have been on both sides of this premise. I have stepped from the false religiosity of our species, into the coldness of science and the monkey mind of philosophy, to the point of view that I hold today. We are the purpose of it all.

But before that becomes the crux of a debate revolving around egocentricity and the like, let me explain as best I can a subject that truly defies absolute defining because of the subtle nature of the truths involved. A good reference to any discussion of this kind is Charles Eisenstein's seminal work: The  Ascent of Humanity. In his book Eisenstein eloquently, and step by step takes you along the path of separation that man embarked on a millennium ago and continues trodding to our very detriment up to this day. The period of time we are going through in the unfolding history of our species can be given the label of "The Age of Separation". In fact that is exactly how the mind set of life having no meaning but the one we give it came about. When science and philosophy, and the worlds so called spiritual traditions collude to give voice to the idea that we are a separate and individuated self that has the base instinct for self survival as the sole outlook on life and that humanity is therefore a depraved and lazy species that must be reined in and disciplined in order to move beyond this basic outlook on life, then a person is left with no other choice than take the view that life is basically meaningless. It all began with some sort of big bang, followed by a primordial soup of some sort of disgusting slimy things that then began to evolve into what we see today without any real rhyme or reason beyond that of self survival.

That this neo-Darwinist philosophical assumption is being taught to our children in myriad ways, most of which are completely beneath the conscious radar of the individual, is it any wonder that such a state of mind should exist. But to be fair, I have to say that I have been blessed/cursed with a very personal insight that has given to me the point of view I now hold on to as a fact that will eventually become absolutely clear to every single man, woman, and child at some point in their life. You see, back on Tuesday, January 13th, 2004 I had a massive heart attack, and died. For a brief moment I was out of the mortal coil and free. And what I felt impressed upon me an astonishing revelation that completely over shadowed the fact that I was peering down on the room where my body lay.

Awareness, consciousness, call it what you will, language really fails to deliver a proper means for describing this state, for indeed that is a correct measure of the moment, and it is this that remains beyond the material body. The ego state falls completely away and only an awareness, an understanding, a sort of peace that "feels" wonderful without any thing that can properly be called feeling, is the environment that my "self" was in. Now some folks have had the ability to do all sorts of things while in this state but I did not. In fact I thought not. I just was. There was an awareness without the weight of thought and emotion, without the drag of logic and reason, without the veil of I, self, me. It was a freedom that can be experienced in moments sublime while in the world but I do not know if it could possibly be sustained without great work and efforts of a nature that I am not versed in. And this awareness "knew". It was self aware, though not in our egoistic way of knowing. Amazing.

You see, after much research I have come to some conclusions about this. The whole event has never let me go. Try as I might to walk away from this thing it will drag me back. And this is what I have learned. Evolution is real, but it does not happen without a purpose. There is a guideing principle that is intertwined so deftly with the material matrix that it can neither be dissected or seperated from its material mate except by the extinguishing of the life sustaining systems. And it is this marraige that is the source of that which we call life. And it is the driver of all evolution and the creator of all forms and the sustain-er of those forms, a formless form that is self aware and self sustaining and of which we are an inseperable part. We have purpose because we are. Within each of us is a personal creativity, even if that creativity is a birth defect that blesses parents with a task that they did not seek for themselves, and teaches selfless love, caring, and compassion. We are the purpose of life in all its abundance. We are to give it that expression that our form is uniquely capable of .

It is seperation from, and our war against, life itself that has perverted our understanding of this vital truth. And when the awareness of our true place and purpose finally manifests itself to us in whatever unique way that it will, then the scales will fall away from the eyes of the self and the beauty of our lives then becomes know to us, if not right away, then in its due course. There are many paths up the mountain, but the view from the top will always be the same.

So I do not disagree with my friends propositon to each of us: what are you going to do with your one life? That is so spot on. I just disagree with the premise that life is purposeless till you give it purpose. Perhaps it has escaped his notice that his life is overflowing with his natural purpose, it just simply awaits his astonished wonder at the discovery of it. His readers can already see it. Soon, he will too.

Travel in peace.

Friday, December 9, 2011

my gratitude list

I thought that for my own benefit, and perhaps for yours as well, that a weekly gratitude list would be a nice post to make. It does me good to reflect upon the people, places, and things that make my life better than it would be otherwise. Of course this list is personal to me, but I strongly encourage you to also start one, whether or not you make it public, because it is a great way of keeping one's perspective when times get a bit down and/or somewhat unbearable. It is good to remember that these moments will always pass and that all is not as bad as it could otherwise appear. So for this week I have the following list:
  • a Higher Power of some kind that is personal to me
  • at least one flesh and blood friend who has not betrayed my trust, stabbed me in the back, or broken my heart
  • all my Internet friends who daily inspire me with their wisdom, courage, and insights
  • a wonderful location to be living in at this moment
  • a warm and cozy camp
  • a warm sleeping bag
  • good health
  • plenty to eat and water to drink
  • money in my pocket
  • clean clothes
  • a creek to bathe in
  • each new day
  • the love in my heart
  • the joy and peace that nature gives me
  • my netbook
  • Linux and free software
  • my Kindle and free ebooks to read
  • life, freedom, and sobriety
Whew, that was a lot. But it could go on and on. I'm sure yours could too. Till next time:

Travel in peace.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

random sketch

When I hitchhiked around the good 'ole USA two summers ago, i wanted to visually record some of the places I visited. Not having a camera, or any other type of modern tool such as a computer web cam, I resorted to making sketches of various objects and landscapes. Unfortunately I lost my travel notebook and all the memories it contained when I had my stuff stolen a while back. But the fascination with drawing still continues. i am not an artist. I just do what i do. I am hoping to get a camera sometime in the future, but until then the old pen and paper will have to do.

From time to time I will post some of these doodling's here on the blog. I am using my netbook's camera to take the photos. Please forgive the amateurishness of it all but it is the best I can do.

This is a sketch of the main building of the San Jose State University bell tower. 

The one thing I seem to have the most trouble drawing are people. They never seem quite right somehow.

Just like the sketches that I do, I have a hard time getting away from writing my thoughts down in a journal. I keep trying to write them down using some journal software but it never feels right somehow. This is posing a quandary of sorts as I am hoping to get back to traveling as soon as I can get my gear together. I don't want to travel with a lot of unnecessary stuff, but it is just a bit difficult to get away from pen and paper. I am going to take a regular notebook of blank pages that will be more appropriate for sketches, but I am still debating the paper journal. As usual, time will tell.

Travel in peace.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

food for thought

Having an open mind and heart makes it very easy for me to accept someone else's views on a subject, even when they differ in significant ways from my own. But I always have trouble with others who can not, for reasons known only to themselves, accept a difference of opinion without spazzing out over the thing. What gives?

Case in point. Recently on Google plus, I commented on an article that dealt with a vegetarian/vegan subject. I did not to the best of my knowledge, attack the article i simply stated my outlook on the subject. This was my personal choice that I was relating, not a rant against the subject at hand. Indeed, I stated quite plainly that I have become more inclined toward a vegetarian diet as I have gotten older. A response that has been generated by my body, not by any personally held belief.

The response to my little reply had the feeling of an attack, designed in a way to preclude any real intelligent response, and framed in the most ludicrous of illustration. I could not help but wonder why. We are living in world beset with so many problems that the idea of controversy arising over what you eat and why shouts stupidity with a capital S. Let me quote my friend Niell Doherty from a recent blog post on his web site Disrupting The Rabblement:
Some people get upset when I use naughty words on this blog, or when I write about taboo subjects. Or they’ll get offended just because my opinion is different to theirs. And to those people I say: You do realize that thousands of children in the world are needlessly starving to death every day, right? If you’re going to take offense to something, I recommend you start there, not with what some random dude writes on the Internet, that little thing you disagree with, or wish your sensitive eyes hadn’t seen.
Niall was writing in reference to the use of off color wording in blog posts, but the sentiment can be applied to a great deal of the crap people choose to argue about.

Another response to the post went into a long and tiresome deconstruction of another response I made, making use of many sources that were left un-named, asking that I instead do the google search myself. Thanks but I prefer that if you are going to cite sources, name them and link them. Any thing less is an insult to a persons intelligence. It is not I who needs to do your homework.

This poster made statements to the effect that this study and that study had proven the benefits of vegetarianism, and the limiting of protein intake, ad nauseaum. Well a simple google search will provide the exact opposite of those findings, and with just as prestigious a sat of alphabet soup attached to the ends of the articles author.  One such is here.

Finally the attitude that seethes just under the surface of these replies is palpable. People rarely become fanatical or vindictive about something without a good measure of fear and uncertainty behind it. For a good introduction to controversial attitudes around the subject of vegetarian/vegan I suggest you read the interview of Lierre Keith conducted by Ian Mackenzie for The Matador Network. Eye opening for sure.

I do not care so much about your diet. I do care about the quality of the food that you and I and every single other human being on this planet must eat. That is where the crux of the matter stands. The manifold diseases that are a daily threat to our species can be traced to modern agricultural practices and the environmental degredation brought on by un-natural practices. Feed the human race first. Starvation is the most preventable disease of mankind. Food is not political, moral, or ethical, it is a basic necessity to life itself. Stop the nonesense, do the work. Please.

Travel in peace.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the narrow path

An old book that I have read in the past stated that there are more or less two ways to travel through this life. It described them as the broad way and the narrow way. How true that is.  I am not a christian. nor in fact am I a bona fide member of any religious institution. But I am quick to accept that there is deep wisdom bound up in our numerous traditions. It only becomes apparent when all the accumulated dross and dogma are scraped away to reveal the light hiding underneath.

I have found the narrow path to be both painful and rewarding, as well it should. Any true path through this life will never willfully refuse to admit the highs and the lows, the hurts and fears, as well as the loves and joys. Any thing professing continuous bliss should be suspect from the get go. It is a fantasy that will topple the holder of such a belief into an abyss of doubt and disillusionment, followed by dark depression. More often than not that person will emerge out the other end of this psychological and emotional tempest a more cynical and heart hardened person, something that our present civilization seems well apt at producing.

How can I be so certain? Because I myself was that very cynic. And I mean cynic in the modern, negative, usage of the word. Too much innocence, too sensitive a soul, too trusting a nature, and you are ripe for rough handling at the whimsy of our neo-darwinist society in all its darkened glory. The cherished view of self and life collapse in a heap of frustration, anger, and pain. But, if approached as a way of learning this crisis can teach one how to regain a better foothold than before, and discover a new and more personal truth around which it is possible to reconstruct one's outlook on life.

The narrow path will appear to get narrower the longer one travels it. Your personal creativity, your personal truths, your attitude and outlook on life will all be challenged by everyday events and it becomes easy to slip into the same habits of arrogance and self-centerdness that are the defining characteristics of the much broader, more well traveled way through life. Upon careful reflection this constricting of the mind can be seen for its real purpose: to challenge you to keep rethinking and reevaluating your own thought and truths, thus keeping you always on your toes. It can all be a bit unsettling. And well it should. We live in a time of so much self-assuredness and so much ego driven selfishness, that any fluid approach to life and what it can mean to you personally, is an open invitation to attack on an intimate level, the place that hurts the most.

The vast majority of human kind have slavishly committed themselves to the cold embrace of reason and its step child, logic. Reasons icy alter numbs the mind making it hard for the intuitions of the heart to be heard. How many times have people accepted the slyly selfish whispering's of their so called friends, only to deny their own heart and suffer some tragic consequence as a result. And it is not just confined to realm of personal interaction. Allowing our present day civilization to become the mistress of neo-darwinism and all manner of divisive and separatist fundamentalism's has brought our world to the very brink of planetary genocide. A dark night on a personal level is hard enough to endure. How much more will our planets dark night be in its effect upon those who have to live through it?

Having experienced ego collapse and lived with the dark night that follows, I have become reluctant in the extreme, in fact I am loath, to surrender myself to the insidious and pernicious insanity of the present human paradyne. In the age old story of the garden of Eden and the fall from grace, a lot of words have been penned in trying to explain what it all means. From a literal belief to mare metaphorical take on it, the explanatory descriptors  are varied and sometimes amusing. I for one subscribe to the view that it is a  description of the separation of the left and right brains through the intervention of the reptilian brain, that usurped the harmonious thinking of the two interlocked halves with an ego based selfishness that has been the cause of our continuous slide into depravity despite the ongoing evolution of our sciences and technologies. It takes a great effort on any one's part to try and bring back into harmony both haves of the brain. It calls for a conscious effort to actually be aware of what one is thinking and why. It means looking for answers to problematic psychological blocks by digging into the depths of our past experiences, many of them in childhood. And it is ongoing. There is no real end except death. You have to accept it and come to understand how to settle down where there is no settling down. 

Travel in peace.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

linux for the rest of us!

This is not going to be another one of those posts deriding Ubuntu that have become the norm of late. Yes I am unfortunately leaving my beloved Ubuntu, but it is not because I am this way or that way about Unity, etc. For the record I would like to say to all those tech pundits and geeky know-it-all's, get some sun light and shut the f**k up already. Make your brownie points off something else.  That said, I have to admit that 11.10 has let me down.

I have used Ubuntu since 7.04. It has always just worked, even when back in that day I had to google and forum search to find out how anything worked. Can anyone remember installing Google Earth from a bin file? How about Real Player? Things are so incredibly easier today, and I think that contributes a lot to all this hoopla on pipe these days.

Ubuntu 11.04 worked for me. My machine is an Asus netbook. It has to be. I travel, and weight and space are major considerations. I am not a web designer or some such thing as that, just an ordinary writer wannabe. Bottom line, my needs are not overwhelming but there are some important items that are must haves, mainly battery life. I can remain disconnected from the web for extended periods, so extending the life of my battery is a number one priority. Right up there with usability is compatibility with my work style. I took to 11.04 quite quickly. I have an open mind to new fangled things, and can usually get a handle on something pretty quick. The combination of keyboard shortcuts, a new thing for me, and the multiple desktops, made a nice boost to my work flow. But I hated Banshee with a passion. At the time I had just the one gig of ram and Banshee grayed out constantly. But at least, with an emphasis on patience, I could work with it. Trying to nip this problem in the bud, I installed a two gig stick before the release of 11.10.

So imagine my total surprise and udder disappointment when I found the release to be horribly buggy. On top of which Banshee would not play at all. Well, to be fair it would, if I held my mouth right, and the moon was in a favorable phase. It refused to play on battery power all together. Now i can tolerate a lot of BS, but this was simply outrageous. There were just too many bugs. And this has led me to reopen an old mental thread of mine to the effect that I fully believe that many interface bugs are due to the developers not actually using the product they are working on in their day to day activities. Food for thought.

Part of the planning for my next vagabonding adventure have more or less took for granted that I would have the next Ubuntu LTS on my hard drive. Unless things take a radical change for the better, that now seems unlikely. I feel Ubuntu will straighten out and fly right in several more iterations, but I need something stable and dependable now. So i now found myself distro hopping again. It is not quite the same as it use to be, knowing what I know now. But it has been eye opening.

I fiddled with the RPM releases (you know who you are) but I just do not like them. Everybody has a preference. Some prefer blonde's, some brunettes, some go for any ole thing (dogs), but I know what I know. Know what I mean? So I needed a Debian based system, that had the tools on board or in the repos, and would give max battery performance. And the list dwindled down quickly to three: Crunch Bang, Linux Mint Debian, and Lubuntu. Then it got whittled to two: Linux Mint Debian, and Lubuntu. Then finally to one: Lubuntu. Why?

Glad you asked. Because its my machine and I'll do what I want. Just kidding. No it was just some simple observations. Crunch Bang is an old favorite, but Corenominal is not at present actively maintaining it. I felt the release is too old, for a rolling release distro, to install. Linux Mint Debian is my secret fave. The gnome version had some kind of weird stability issue on my netbook, but xfce ran like a champ. And two amazing things happened. The first was that upon detecting my proper screen resolution all the fonts and windows were resized properly. A feat of magic that seems to be beyond the developers of other mainstream releases.  And, heart stopping as it is, Banshee actually worked. Couldn't believe it. It is still the slowest damn piece of work to open though.

But Lubuntu won because it gave the best battery performance out of the bunch. Let me break it down for ya:

  • Windows 7 Starter = 3hrs with power saver mode in eee super engine 
  • Ubuntu Unity         = 2hrs and 20min with Jupiter installed and whitelisted
  • LMDE xfce            = 3hrs with Jupiter installed and icon in tray
  • Lubuntu lxde          = 3hrs and 48min with Jupiter installed and add to session startup

In finding out how to add the syndaemon to disable the touchpad in Lubuntu, I also found out how to get Jupiter running. I added it to the /etc/xdg/lxsessions/Lubuntu/startup file. Who knew? Of course I do not have the systray icon, but it is not a deal breaker as the syndaemon works also.

wrong using Linux Mint Debian. Another small issue that I have with rolling release model is the possibility of breakage during an update. It is low, especially with mint, but none the less, I cannot see risking it in my particular situation.  For the rest of you though, that should not be a deal breaker.

Lubuntu is performing like a champ. It is fast and the battery performance amazing. I have access to all the apps that I use and I am on somewhat familiar ground. It could use a better login screen, something more efficient would be nice. I hope the LTS will be a good fit. If so I can see myself running with it on my netbook far into the future. For any thing larger though, my money is on Mint, for now.

Travel in peace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the soul of evolution

I have been musing upon this blog post for a good while, but when I listened to a recent Buddhist Geek's episode, I had to write this article. Now I am in no way being critical of any thing, these are just my musings on the subject, as they have 'evolved' with time, and I in no way claim them as received truth's.
During the interview, a mention was made of an old Buddhist belief or myth wherein it was stated that when the Buddha became enlightened, the whole universe became enlightened as well. I have to strongly disagree with that statement, mythic or otherwise. I feel very strongly that when the Buddha achieved enlightenment, he came to realize what the universe already new, and demonstrated on an every day basis. To look at Life from a purely human-centric point of view is one of the classic mistakes made by every religion invented or 'percieved' by humans. Among the more primitive tribal peoples, this narrow view point is unknown. Living as they are in close proximity to Life in all its variety, they can not conceive of themselves as separate and apart from nature. They are one and the same with everything. They need no 'god' because they understand that they live with and in and upon that very Source.

If we take a long and open minded view of the findings published by such researchers as Stanislav Grof, it becomes apparent that the soul or spirit that combines with matter to give us life, has passed through many forms on this living planet before it became the form we know as human. Grof has evidence that shows regression memories from other sentient beings as diverse as Redwood trees and reptiles. And if there is lingering doubt about rebirth, I refer you to studies on children who display remarkably accurate memories of a previous life. Over one hundred years ago Judge Thomas Troward of Great Britain, wrote about the soul's travels through the diversity of forms in his book  "The Hidden Power". Reincarnation is no doubt, a continuance of the evolutionary process that began with the primordial Source itself.

Back in the day, I was fascinated by a new farming technique from Japan. Called simply 'Natural Farming', it was the pioneering work of the lay Buddhist Masanobu Fukuoka. His radical farming techniques were based on the Buddhist philosophy, and yielded very remarkable results, as will the practice of Buddhism itself. I still recommend his work to any one seeking to improve their health through better, more nutritious food, and like wise improve the health of our planet. But, when one carefully analyzes his technique, you can begin to perceive the human-centricity at the root. No matter how closely intertwined with the local ecology, it still remains separated from it. It is a semblance of it, and only that. It is not a totally natural practice. So the question remains, is close good enough? Its a tough question. And it needs an answer. Our future generations depend on it. Form is emptiness, emptiness is evolving. But at the root of it, we are still talking form.

Travel in peace.