HIPPIE MAMMAS, WHITE RAPPERS, DRAG QUEENS,
AND A WARM BODY TO HOLD
Day 120 Shoals to Bedford
Everyone is awake at 5 am. Carl asks me if I want to get up. I say "no." Back into the womb. And the next time I wake up it is 9am and the house is empty. Strangers leave me in their homes, I guess its because I look 18. I look like everyones son, like everyones grandson. I am the archetype labeled "care for me." I am a relaxed archetype today. I am not in a cold wet field with cold wet feet and sweaty clothes. My new family has done wash for me, it is folded neatly in a pile by my back pack. Damn, it feels good to be clean. On the kitchen table next to two boxes of cereal and a bowl there is a note that says, "Aaron, Milk in the fridge, help your self. Call us when you get up. You're welcome to stay as long as you like. God bless you, Claudia." I look at family photos hanging on the wall in the hallway. The phone rings, it's Kelby, he'll take me back up the road, and we'll eat lunch together. The phone rings again, its grandma, she wants to buy me breakfast, but I've already eaten 3 bowls of cereal, well, she'll try to find us before we leave, "We love you," she says, like she is talking to her own grandson. I tell her I love her too, like she is my own grandmother. The phone rings again, Claudia just wants to make sure I found everything all right, and to tell me I can stay another day and night if I want. Thank you Mom, but the rhythm will not let me rest. Today Kelby will drive the comet up the road. Today Kelby will tell me about his life. Today he will tell me why his right arm is shrunken and why he cannot use his hand.
The road out of Shoals. Semis full of coal, gravel, death on wheels. This road to Bedford is as bad as anything I have seen. There are no shoulders. I am glad not to be on it with that dog cart.
Kelby runs coyotes and coons and squirrels. When I say that, I mean that he hunts them like one would imagine an old fashioned fox hunt. He raises Crogan Bred Walkers to hunt the coyotes, and Original Mountain Curs for squirrel and coon dogs. He has 48 of them at his house out of town. Last night while I was sleeping he was "runnin coyotes" until 4 am. I still do not completely understand the sport, but there is a way of telling whos dog tackles the coyote first. Jason also runs coyotes.
Kelby does not need much sleep, he cant sleep much anyhow, because of the pain in his arm. After 18 years of swinging a 16 pound sledge hammer he fell from the top of a rail car and damaged the nerves in his shoulder. He has lost most of the function in his right arm and can only use 2 finger. Those 2 fingers are not strong enough to peel back the plastic on a package of sandwich meat. So Kelby lost his job with the state highway department. Workers Comp. has declared that it was a pre-existing injury. Pre-existing from 18 years of swinging a hammer for them, and theyll use any excuse to not pay. It is a bluff to see if he will fight or give up, and it will be a long fight. He cannot find a doctor that will accept his insurance plan, and he wonders why hes been paying all that money for insurance for all these years and cant get help now that he needs it. "All the insurance payments dont mean anything in the end, I could have taken that money and saved it in my own account with interest. So, here I am, I have to find another doctor who might want 2 new MRIs and that costs more money." And all this time wasting, and his arm shrinking because he cant use it. "And what if I dont get my fingers back because theyve made me wait so long, it could end up being permanent. I guess I just have to smile and say I guess Im just glad to be alive and breathing." The Holsapples are a strong family. As a local said to me yesterday, "the Holsapples are good people." I am proud to be part of their family for a day.
Kelby drops off the Comet, gives me a hug, and waves with his 2 good fingers. Thank you for saving us from certain death. Thank you for the food and a dry warm night and for caring enough to seek me out. Thank you for treating me like a son.
The highway song that I sing is manic and depressive and way left and way right, the road hurts so much, but it rewards me for having faith in it. Walk through a new town and wonder highway song, where will you carry me? Sometimes thinking no one will care for me, no great encounters collide, sometimes I am a skeptic, despite all the people who have saved me, I think "will this be one of those days when I am alone?" I should know by now that the hard days come and go, and spaced between them are beautiful collisions of bliss. To leave the comfort of every one of these homes, to return to the difficult miles. The initiation is long. But the reward is great.
Today I talked to Dale from Xenia, he wants to know: What is my golden fleece? And he tells me that the Lis in Flora got their ice cream machine today. So if youre ever in Flora, Illinois, go get an ice cream cone at the China Buffet, and say hello to the Lis for me.
My golden fleece is perspective. Perspective that raises me above nations and myths to see this great puzzle like the Hubble Telescope. To see the hundreds of billions of universes in the minds of man, to understand the roots of that consciousness. Because when you know the source you are free. Buddha-to-be.
On the way from the Bedford Library to the local café I find Michelle and her daughter Brianna walking to their car, they have a life sized cutout of Brittany Spears. The word PRINCESS is written in rhinestones across the ass of Briannas tight black pants. She looks 16. She is only 12. I have noticed this trend in other parts of America. Teens look twenties. I also see that the MTV generation now extends from 12 to 30 year olds. The mother and the daughter. I ask Michelle if I may document her daughters ass, and she says it would be their pleasure. I have a picture of it preserved it on slide film.
Café Petropolis is an oasis in the Ohio desert. The first time I have been to a public gathering place this late in the evening that is not full of drunks. They are open until 3am, so I will be here quite late, I do not know how far I will walk tonight. The people inside quiz me. I photograph a beautiful young mother and child, Autumn and Alana. A used car salesman tells me about dirty deals he has made. I am not impressed. But I stay to talk to pretty girls and a woman who works with child substance abusers, and I write and I value this time away from the shoulder of the road.
A short body builder with bleached blonde hair is sitting at a table next to me. We talk for 2 or 3 minutes. His name is Johnathan. He leaves. The owner of the coffee shop is bald. He is a doctor. He tells me he is related to Alexander the Great. He talks to another man who looks like a doctor then leaves. The girls in the coffee shop listen attentively as I give a demonstration of my skills with the Solid Gold Rock Star childrens guitar. Johnathan returns to tell me that there are a group of girls who want to meet me. "Giddyup," I say, "where are we going?" Bloomington. And Im thinking, thats like 45 miles away from here, but hells bells, why not. "Grab your stuff, you can leave it in the gym. You wont be coming back tonight." He is laughing. I dont know what that means.
I do not question. It is in motion. So goodbye coffee girls, and the road has taken a strange and surprising turn. Straight north. Johnathan wants me to meet Evangeline, a beautiful, drum playing, chest beating, hippie, single mother of 2. He says she will like me. He says I will like her.
So, Cosmo and I hop in the body builders white convertible and we are zero to 60 in 6 seconds and Kid Rock is giving a philosophy lecture through white boy self professed trailer trash rock/rap. The familiar thump thump of speakers that is the prelude to any great adventure, booming bass is always a good sound track for a shocking turn of events, for excess, for self annihilation, for dance floors and beautiful women. Sometimes even a prelude for subtle universe expanding beautiful chain reactions. "Evangeline has long dark hair, shes beautiful, youre gonna dig her. Shes gonna like you." Boom, thump, sing it, "Ive been sittin here just wastin my time, drinking, smoking, trying to free my mind." The beat goes on. This is one hell of a movie. I love being the star. I am on top of the world. I found the right person, the right person found me, the door is open, and now anything could happen.
The universe is driving this car.
The Universe lets Johnathan stop to buy two bottles of Boones "Strawberry Hill" wine for $2 a bottle. Zoom. Thump. POW! To the apartment of girls that I do not know. To the apartment of girls that I will love very deeply, soon, but I do not know this yet. I should know it though. Because that is how the doors are opening now. Inside apartment 2430 the lights are low, candles lit, there are 4 hippie girls with homemade dresses, and the walls are covered with Hindu tapestries, and the girls all have long beautiful hair, and little precious gems stuck to the corners of their eyes and in between their eyebrows and that is called a bindi, a symbol of Parvati, female energy. And this IS female energy, atomic fireball female energy. The Strawberry Hill is passed around. I thought that there were supposed to be kids here, but I only see one. Johnathan and his girlfriend Pauline dissapear into the bathroom. On the walls there are pictures of Krishna and Hanuman, a monkey saint, an Amsam of Shiva. Also known as Anumandhayya, Maruthi, and Siriya Thiruvadi. He grants courage, valor, and wisdom when he hears the Rama nama. I dont believe any of that but I will include the Rama nama just the same:
Asaathya Saadhaka Swaamin
Asaathyam Thavakim Vadha
Raama Dhootha Kribhaa Sindho
Math Kaaryam Sadakka Prabho
So the monkey god blesses all the Hippie girls and the bleached blonde body builder and the Highway Dude. Thank you great monkey god for you blessing. Latin music on the stereo now, and black haired beauty Kristin shakes her hips and sways while the people plan and while Johnathan and Pauline are hiding in some other room (love is everything). People are getting tired, the room is clearing out and the decision is made that Johnathan and Pauline will stay here, and Evangeline and I will go to the local gay bar. Dancing. Yes, as much as I can get. But I dont want to look like the Gore-Tex pilgrim tonight so Evangeline, who I will refer to from now on as the Angel, will give me her very own pants. Lace up black pants. And she will give me her motorcycle boots. And I will wear a bindi and jokingly they say they can make me some lace-up arm cuffs made of leather. But I am not joking, because I would love to wear some lace-up leather arm cuffs, so they set to making them for me. Did I mention tonight is Drag Queen night? Id wear a dress, but I really dont want any men touching my ass. The Angel will protect me.
While Angel dresses I thread the leather. She returns in black, Salsa queen, and she shows me her secret weapon. A belt of cowry shells and beads from which dangle 34 Burmese coins on thread. So we pose for pictures, and we look like a pimp and his hooker because we wear fur collared jackets over our outfits. I am holding a cane. A pimp hat is tipped low over my face. And where will this go? with the flow. We are ready to rule the world when we look into the mirror. I do not yet know my Queen. But in that mirror, another door.
Hindi music in Angels 1984 Bronco, a fairy holding a magic wand hangs from the rearview mirror, spins, casts its spell. And the Queen says, "I have often pictured myself looking out my eyeballs like windows, with my hands pressed up against the glass." Yes my queen I know what you mean, this strange film. When will we open the window, when will we walk through that screen to joins the smiling faces, or will we stand up and walk out of that theatre into the light. Plato, your cave will not be dark. Tonight we are the sun. Big hoops in the Angels ears. Tight black pants and flamenco shoes that she put tape over so she does not ruin the dance floor. "I shouldnt be wearing them out but I cant help it, I dont want to help it." And I dont want her to help it either, even though she is now 4 inches taller than I am. Amazon, flamenco, queen of Thebes.
Let us dance. Pay at the door, drinks at the bar, a shot of tequila. Two men are kissing deep throat beside us. The drag queens are about to begin. One is very large, and one looks like Tina Turner, and one looks like a man in a dress, and one does not wear a dress, he wears tight black shorts and a leather vest and he dances through the crown dancing and handing out candy. All of them lip-synch quite well. I have never seen a drag show.
Our turn. Shining star. I am hypnotized by the shaking of her hips with the coins shaking, chiming, music to seduce me, lock hips and swivel, trance dance. Another tequila shot. Another dance with our hips and lets just take it all, lets just rule the world right now. I cant stop watching her hips. Another school. The Latin school. And my dance comes from Prague, from the underground, a dance of the hands and arms. But I watch her and I learn from her and before the night is over we dance together, with hands and hips and arms, and eyes. Transcend and include. Together we are better than we are alone. I worship the goddess tonight, techno strobe trance dance floors lit from beneath. Stomp with your flamenco boots Amazon queen.
And returning to the second story apartment where hang the Hindu tapestries, where Johnathan and Pauline lay sleeping on the floor, in the glow of a green lava lamp, by drums and a small shrine and a Shamans head dress, feathers and flowers hang from windows, doors and walls. I ask the Angel where I will sleep and I hold my breath because I want to hear that I am sleeping with her. And she says that the only blankets in the house are in her room, so I can sleep with her, and I do not know where it will go, and neither does she, until we lay down and it is so easy to pull her close, so close that every inch touches. And now we know. And we hold each other so tight that we may disappear in each other. Like if we hold on tight enough we will merge or we will fall through each other, like pressing up against the glass windows trying to get outside, like walking out of the movie theatre. That is how I hold her. She is so easy to hold. And the lips that I have been needing are here, these lips, like water after a long drought, they water my soul and quiet my mind. And she is more than a warm body to hold. She is tall and strong and she dances like it is the last dance. Like the fourth of July. Like freedom.