Like Motorbikes.

I recently bought a Harley. It wasn’t a part of a quarter life crisis (or, depending on how long I live, mid-life crisis). At least I don’t think it is. I’ve wanted a motorcycle since I was in high school, but I’ve always been very torn between my somewhat conventional, very fearful familial influence and my sort of careless, impulsive self. I think in the past few years I’ve finally realised that just because my family doesn’t approve of a decision that I make doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make it. That’s a pretty basic part of growing up, I guess, but I spent the majority of my life afraid to divert from my grandparents and parents wisdom.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that I stayed in the Christianity game for far too long because I didn’t want to disappoint my family. I tried to justify God’s absence from my life in every way possible, making excuses and ultimately feeling a backbreaking guilt because of what I perceived to be a lack of faith on my part.

I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole, however. I didn’t sit down to write about that. It’s funny what starts to bubble up when you pull at such a tiny scab.

I bought a Harley because I thought I deserved it. I’ve never bought anything new in my life. I’ve never even financed anything in my life. I’m 26 and everything I own (the very few things) I’ve paid for in cash. I’ve lived out of a backpack for a long time. I’ve been tired and dirty and quasi-homeless for years. I saw the motorcycle I wanted, and I decided that after the year I’ve had, I owed it to myself.

I’ll always remember 2002-2005 as my band years. 2005-2008 as my college years/last stab at childhood. 2008-2011 was finding myself, travel, and dionysian revelry. But mid 2011 to 2013 was full of extremely poor mental health, hunger, girlfriend abuse, alcohol abuse, infidelity, broken knuckles, suicidal thoughts, and emotional breakdowns. I went to jail twice, got sued, got fired, got my house broken into, and moved cross country (again) all within a few weeks time. I tried to date two women at once. I treated them both like dogs. I threw a beer bottle at one of them. If I had to estimate, I’d say I experience about 3-5 hours of rational thought, when I really feel like myself, a day. Even during those moments, I have learned not to fully trust those thoughts that seem “rational”. It’s damn confusing.

So I went out and bought a motorcycle. Was it what a therapist would describe a manic purchase? Sure, probably, but dammit, its something I’ve wanted for about ten years and I feel absolutely free and outside myself when I ride. It sounds cliche, but riding a Harley is way better than therapy. Also, I look kinda bad-ass.



Bus Trip ‘Oh Ten: Episode 50- No Shortcuts

July 30th cont…

(It is with great trepidation that I sit down to write this, almost exactly a year since we began this crazy trip, this is the final entry from my journal, in almost illegible script due to the bouncing, shaking bus.)

We drove along that great expansive border fence that ensures American “freedom”, as if a fence can grant freedom, built by the same architects that construct wars, paid for by you, the “free” citizen. At some point that looming fence disappears, and there is only the Rio Grande, which has been a border for longer than America has been a country. We took a left, down a dusty, rocky road that looked like it probably led to those underground cock fighting rings Ben was talking about, and entered New Mexico.

As we passed a border patrol car, partially obscured by the gathering dust, Pual asked, “Are you guys sure we’re going the right way?”

“Well Pual, there’s never any way to be sure about anything, really. But this looks right, according to Tyler’s map,” I replied curtly.

Ben pointed out the window from his spot on the couch, “There’ s the sign for it, take a left up ahead.”

The road, which supposedly led to Mount Cristo Rey, was more of a dirt trail than anything, and it led up a steep hill into what looked to be a rock quarry, not a parking lot. Hoping this wasn’t a trap for drug cartels to kidnap unsuspecting blonde tourists, I pushed the pedal down as hard as I could, like I was squashing a beetle, and we bounded the hill, kicking up rocks behind us.

The trail led past yet another border patrol car, and weaved up and and down a few more gravel hills. Everyone was holding onto something as the bus bounced along, looking out the windows nervously, worried that we wouldn’t make it, or worse, we weren’t even heading in the right direction, but the heat was brutal, I was tired, and I just didn’t care. If this is where the bus met its fate, let it be, I’d pack my bags and hitch hike home, leaving it there to be swallowed up by the dust.

Finally, after a doubtful drive, we came up on the parking area, which was desolate except for one rusty work truck. Two Mexicans were putting tools and a ladder into an old shed. I parked the bus, leaped out into the rocky parking area and went to ask them if we could hike up, going over in my head how I would ask them in Spanish if need be.

Both men were wearing matching red caps that read “Mt. Cristo Rey, 69 anos”, and as I walked up to them, one of them took off his cap and wiped his sweaty forehead with a raggedy kerchief.

“Hey guys, is it okay if we go up?” I said, pointing at the lumbering statue of Christ on top of the hill, his arms outstretched as if waiting for an embrace.

“Sure, man, but remember, it’s at your own risk. We aren’t liable if anything happens to you and your buddies,” one of them replied from behind a patchy beard.

“There have been banditos in the area, and reports of assults. People go up there looking to pray, and sometimes they come back down in just their underwear. The banditos wait in the rocks and jump out and rob them,” The other one added.

“And there are a lot of rattlers this time of year, so no shortcuts, okay?”

“Yes sir,  no short cuts. Got it.” I said, and started to walk back to the bus.

“I mean it, man!” he called after me. Continue reading

Bus Trip ‘Oh Ten: Episode 34-The Ground, The Canyon, The Fog

July 20th-

I woke up in the bus, on the dirty-footfall couch, with dreams of sun and saltwater splashing in my head. I Leaned up and looked out the window, at the foggy Pacific Ocean crashing on the Big Sur rocks, seaspray shooting up the cliff and plummeting back down, endlessly looping aquamarine.

It was cold, maybe colder than I’d been on the whole trip, and I was wrapped in a dingy Ninja Turtles blanket circa 1987 that I’d found in a thrift shop a few years before. We were parked about a quarter of a mile down from the Bixby Bridge, on gravel pull-off, where we tried to hide the yellow monster behind a rocky mound that jutted up from the ground beside Route One.

I sat and listened to the slosh rumble of the ocean below me, interrupted every few minutes by the all-too-modern sound of a passing car. Like just about everything else, my generation come to this place about fifty years too late.

I put on a sweater and my soviet wool cap and headed out the door, out into the dreary Pacific fog. That’s what is so magical about the bus: everywhere is your front porch. You’re always at home and never home all at once.

I walked out into the wind and stood at the edge of the cliff, looking out to my right at the bridge, the canyon, the ocean, dense fog clinging to all of it.  I sat down for a while and felt the fog seeping into my head, like it had been since we rolled into San Fransisco. God, where are we? What did we do last night? Did we really abandon a person at that greyhound station? What the hell is happening? I’m so tired, so tragically tired.

Already at nine thirty, there were tourists parked on the other side of the bridge, out enjoying the vista for a few minutes, rubbing their hands together, taking a few snapshots, and then leaving again, satisfied with their Bixby experience. They passed me as they left, going to their resorts and cabins, while I walked down the gravel and dirt beneath the bridge. It was a surreal experience to be underneath the concrete behemoth.

The ground, covered in tiny wildflowers and weeds, sloped down from my feet a good eight hundred yards to the whitefoamed beach. I tiptoed to a place where I could sit comfortably on a concrete ledge beneath the bridge, cars passing overhead, and took my spot, a spectator, an initiator, a constant in the entire marvelous scene.

The canyon spread out to my right, the ocean and cliffside collided noisily to my left, and directly in front of me were the grand concrete pillars that supported the bridge, and behind them, that magnificent arch that ties it all together. That’s one thing I must say is so impressive about this place: the bridge doesn’t distract from the natural splendor. It is a component of Big Sur at an almost Organic Level, as if it has always been here, as if God planted its legs deep in the ground– and I suppose in a way, he did.

The fog pervades, so I can’t see the cliffs beyond me. If I hadn’t driven back through here the day before, I might not know the steep mountains around me even exist. The fog doesn’t detract from the beauty though, it only frames this place, as one scene of an episode of an epic, best enjoyed little by little.

To me, there are a few, few places in the world where everything has come together, however randomly or purposefully, to create sheer pristine lamentable beauty in a way so specific, geometrically, aesthetically, cosmically, that it plants a seed in my very soul. The Bixby Bridge, and Big Sur in general, is one of those places.

Oh God, you must be merciful because here I sit, immersed in terrible terrible beauty which speaks directly to my spirit, amen.


Bus Trip Oh’ Ten: Episode 29-We’re all just looking for salvation.

July 17th continued…

So we pulled into Santa Cruz around eight pm, hungry and tired. Our friend Leaf, with whom I had been communicating by interspersed texts over the past few days, was to meet us in Santa Cruz, his old hometown. He drove his little white Civic down from Stockton, which was about three hours away. Leaf had promised us his friends house to hang out at for the night, and said there might be a potluck in our honor, asking only that we would play a few songs.

We met leaf at a Shell station after maneuvering the bus around tight corners and briefly holding up traffic. The most mundane task, like pulling into a gas station, suddenly becomes work in the big yellow bus, firmly pressing your foot against the hot gas pedal, wrestling with the big steering wheel, whipping the back-end around like a dinosaur’s tail, lumbering, creaking.

When Leaf pulled into the parking lot, just minutes after we did, I hopped down the bus steps and gave him a full on bear hug. Seeing Leaf again, even in a gas station parking lot, was like a chilled glass of water: his boyish blonde hair, kind blue eyes, and the wrinkles on his forehead, earned from years of making a wide-eyed, surprised expression from being in complete awe with every magnificent facet of the universe. It was so good to see him away from Kerrville because it made him seem so much more real to me. Oh, this is a real person with a real life who exists outside of the maniac ranch of Kerrville.

Continue reading

Bus Trip ‘Oh Ten: Episode 23- Serene Indigo

July 12th continued…

So we drove into Lake Tahoe, a tourist trap with white families walking in water shoes from store to store, wooden facade to wooden facade. It was a loud, crowded resort posing as a quaint vacation destination, and it wasn’t what we were looking for. So while I walked around on the beach, Ben found a national park down the road that might better suit us. So off we went, driving south, through the towering pines, on to D.L Bliss State park.

On the way, we stopped the slow traffic behind us to pick up a guy with a crew cut and a label-less backpack who was walking on the side of the road. He hopped in happily and told us, in a thick Eastern European-sounding accent, that he was headed to a beach twelve miles down the road. I shut the bus doors, pushed the accelerator down to the floor, and asked him where he was from.

“Serbia”, he responded curtly.

“What are you doing here?”

He mumbled something indecipherable, of which I only made out the word “service”.

“So how’s the whole Serbia deal working out for you?”

“Not well, which is why I am here.” he said without a smile.

Ben moved towards the front of the bus to hear him, as did Tyler. Michelle, Saray sat on the couch uninterested, Pual sat behind me looking at the Serbian stranger, squinting as the sun peeked through the surrounding pines.

The man didn’t speak for the rest of the ride, a long twelve miles on a small county road. He stood up, clutching his backpack, looking out the windshield for his stop.

“I think this is the place”

He thanked me as I slowed down. I opened the door, he waved to us, and then jogged away.

Ben decided, within a matter of minutes, that the man, who never told us his name was probably a Serbian Nationalist working here as a hitman. He had a clock in his backpack and we just aided him by giving him a ride. After his assassination attempts are in the news, we’d better high-tail it out of california.

“The stupid americans that helped me were driving an ugly school bus that says “Angry Young and Poor” on the side of it. I think they are anarchists, also, they are traitors to your country.” Ben said in a terrible, thick Serbian accent.

“He is probably a waiter.” I said as I took a curve slowly. Continue reading

Bus Trip ‘Oh Ten: Episode 15- A Leaf, A River

July 3rd

We checked our oil in the Wal-Mart parking lot this morning and found that we were low again. Stephanie and I went and sat down by a drainage ditch between the Wal-Mart and a strip mall and watched a mother duck and her five ducklings swim in the stale, brown water, leaving quiet ripples behind them. As they exited the ditch and walked out into the grass, towards the road, a guy covered in tattoos, wearing a black sleeveless shirt, approached us, asking about the bus.

When he got closer we saw the pentagram on his forehead, and a glaring 666 tattooed on is right cheek. I pride myself on being open minded when it comes to alternative lifestyles and fashion and whatever, but I’ll admit that this guy looked like an Anthrax album cover personified, and he downright creeped me out. He told us that people in Denver weren’t the most understanding or accepting folks, a statement that did not surprise me, given the tattooed mouth it was coming from. We told him we were going to Boulder, and he immediately got excited. Continue reading

Bus Trip ‘Oh Ten: Episode Thirteen: Blame it on the altitude.

July 1st

We woke up at five in the morning, per Josh’s request. He said if we didn’t get an early start on our hike, we were likely to get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm, and having been threatened by rain on every single hike we’d been on during the trip, we took his advice.

So those of us that were going–Tyler, Pual, Michelle, Stephanie, and I– reluctantly got out of our bunks before sunrise, got our gear ready, and walked across the Target parking lot, to meet Josh at the “clubhouse”. Ben and Saray stayed behind (what a surprise) so Ben could get more work done. I was disappointed that Ben would be missing out on the fourteen thousand foot hike (even though he dismisses the sort of spiritual high I derive from such an expedition as “modern Nashville-style Christianity) because I think it’s a shame to spend as much time as we are in Colorado Springs, and not see its most famous inhabitant. Continue reading