TRANSIENT REQUEST FORM
Day 115 unnamed patch of grass to Flora
today: 21 cumulative: 2,340
Cold. Very Cold. Water has built up and some has come through the floor of the tent. Everything is wet. My hands are cold and I cant find my gloves. Tear down fast and keep moving to stay warm, just like we did in the New Mexico desert. A man is here to mow the church grass, as we cross the highways he yells for us to stop. He brings me his gloves. "Noticed you didnt have any." Thank you friend.
Cold but no rain, then cold with a light rain, but I do not put on my rain pants and then it is too late, the rain is pouring down and then the wind, cold driving rain wind in my face and it makes my pants stick to my legs, and blows the water into my hood when semis drive by, kicking up the water and spraying us. I was enjoying this ridiculous walking in the rain until I started to shake. Now the wind is making this water sting and making my legs shake and my face is covered with the mist that spirals up from the tires. And what a sight this must be to the passing cars. A desperate trek today. Miserable, like our winter days at 0 degrees, but soaking wet and no way to get warm. Xenia is 2 miles away. I am so cold I stop at a house to ask if I can change clothes under the roof of an open carport by their house. A woman answers the door. I can, but I can tell I scared the hell out of her. Shaking cold. Everything is soaked. Change pants, sit in my sleeping bag for a few minutes to stop shaking. The woman walks out, sees me shaking in my sleeping bag under her garage roof, jumps in her car and drives away. She is probably going somewhere "safe," the police are probably on their way. Pack up fast and go back into the rain. But much better with these rain pants on. Xenia, a gas station with tables, with warm drinks, with 20 old farmers solving the problems of the world.
Xenia means friendship. Jerry sits down to talk with me. He ships karate trophies for a living. Travels to tournaments and assembles the ones that are 6 feet tall. He will make a call ahead to the Sheriff in Flora to tell them I am coming. They will be able to help me find a place. Dale lives in Xenia. He is here at the gas station to show the Li family the ice cream machine. The Lis have always wanted to buy an ice cream machine, they own the Chinese Restaurant in Flora. Stalling to watch the men in John Deer hats, stalling to stay out of the cold rain. Offers for rides. Tempted to take them. But this is when I need to walk. The road is good, there is no excuse to take a ride. Dale returns as I am leaving, he will meet me at the Lis restaurant, hed like to buy me dinner. There is always a Dale to save me on cold rainy days. My impromptu support team. America. Put on the headphones and zip up the hood. The problem solvers in John Deer hats wave and good luck you crazy bastard you. Cosmo is ready. Rain. But with the right sound track for this film, it does not matter that it is cold and raining. It empowers. Like strapping myself to the mast, in stormy seas. I will ride this because I want to be the hero, and the hero is not afraid of a cold rainy road, the cold rainy home is the heros home. It is only 12 more miles. It is only 3 more hours. And then it is done. Talk to children in the street. They take a picture of me with their disposable camera.
I like to talk to children. I wish they could walk with me for a day.
Dale is waiting at the Lis. The China Buffet. To look back on a miserable rainy day now and smile because soon I will be full of Crab Rangoon and spicy mustard, Kung Pow Chicken and egg drop soup, and hot tea. Mr. Li, Dale tells me, just got his citizenship this year, and the first thing he said was "I want to vote." But there was no election, so Mr. Li had to wait for his first chance to vote as an American. Something very few natives of this country do. He came to the U.S. 12 years ago without his family, and lived in New York alone for 4 years to make enough for the down payment for his own restaurant, and to save enough to move his family to the U.S. He also wanted to have 2 children, and could not afford the head tax imposed in China. Mrs. Lis name means Snow Cloud in English, she smiles and fills my tea for me. They have been in Flora for 8 years now. They are an American family. They work hard. They are humble. They smile often. We take photos with each other.
My fortune cookie says: "A modest man never talks to himself." And that is a lie, we should talk to ourselves much more, and if you want to say it is not modest then no I am not. When you talk to yourself you solve problems, you grow. Too many people are modest.
At the Police station they say they knew I was coming thanks to Jerrys call. They begin to ask me questions. Too many questions. Like my next of kin and my social security and my phone #. I feel uncomfortable giving out this much information. Selling my soul. What is this computer linked to? Who is collecting information on my movements? What conspiracy is this? Well, too late I think anyway, I use a credit card every day, I am one of the microchip implantees, I am deeply embedded in the system. And I am not proud of it. I am handed a blue piece of paper, a woman points to the line at the bottom. Below the line it says: Transient signature. The form is a "Transient Request Form." It is for a motel. At least I got a warm room for selling my soul. "Since its not coon hunters weekend they should have a room." Yes, she really said that, and it is definitely the quote of the day.
A free hotel, a luxury, a first on the journey. Dale helps us get there and leaves us, as he says, "to our fate." I will hear from Dale again, I am sure of that. I am tempted to wander and photograph, but the cold that soaked my bones is still there and I need to be warm right now. Cosmo is already asleep on the bed with her head on my lap. The TV is right here, turn it on. Warm and brainless. Media seduces. Watching the images. They are getting me, I want their products, I want to be a rock star, I want to be one of the people on TV because they make it look so slick and satisfying. I want, I want, I want. They are good at selling the life. The impossible life, not impossible because you cannot have the things or the image, you can have them, but impossible because the things do not give you that enduring happiness, that they show you, that smile that lasts forever. Because you always want more. I watch the plastic. I want the plastic. Far from the cold shaking shoulder. But I will return.
The road will wash away the plastic.