I’m leaving North Carolina tomorrow, TOMORROW, via hitch-hiking to Tennessee. Once I’m good and in Tennessee, there’s a freight train, apparently, that will take me all the way to LA. I just have to go to this train yard my friend told me about and hide my pack in the bushes and talk to the yard workers. And they’ll tell me what train and when it leaves and then I just have to wait for it and find a rideable car and climb on, after, of course, I find a store nearby where I can buy a few gallons of water and some cans of beans, and maybe a celebrity tabloid to pass the time. I’m not exactly excited about the trip back- not exactly excited about the cold, the solitude, the walking on windy shoulders, the cloying heat of gas-stations, the endless peanut-butter, the fast-food breakfast sandwiches on stale corn tortillas, the diesel grime in the cracks of my hands, the empty gallon jugs, the sore shoulders from pack-straps, the chance of rain. I’m not excited about the rocky ground, the dusty lungs, the lack of fresh vegetables, people who chain-smoke with the car-windows up. I’m not, after all, even excited about getting back to the west coast- the rain, rain, rain, the grey concrete, the lack of jobs, the sprawling city, the central heating that makes me itch and sneeze and cough.
I kind of wish I lived in a cabin in Vermont- I kind of wish I lived in a cabin in North Carolina- I kind of wish I had someplace to write my book. I kind of wish all of my stuff wasn’t in my car parked in front of my friend’s house on the west coast (everything I own fits in my car)- I wish it was only what was on my back- except maybe my bike, I wish that was here. I’ve been away from my “stuff” for two months now and I don’t even remember what I own. Two hundred flannels of various weights, seventeen thousand pairs of shiny men’s shoes, one cowl-neck sweater in pure virgin wool with a wooden button at the neck. A bolo tie of a jumping salmon, a leather belt tooled with freight trains, a bear bell from my backpacking trip in Alaska. A puffy vest with fake fur trim, a real fox-fur trapper hat from the goodwill, very old. Six-hundred suit-vests altered to fit my shoulders, a tin of brown shoe-polish, a pocket-square with my name embroidered on it. A stuffed carrot, a knitted bear, a brown cap with red silken lining, made myself. Nineteen million half-filled journals, a Silverton man’s love-letters circa 1918, one photo of my mother taken in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was three.
I need nothing. I need three things. I need fifteen things. I need everything.
I need nothing. Everything I have I could get anywhere. Why do I need to go anywhere? Why am I here? Why am I going back to the west coast? Where should I go?
I’m not exactly excited about the trip back, but maybe that’s how I always feel. Truth is, I’m tired of traveling, and everywhere I get I just feel like staying. It’s nice cold winter here in Asheville and there are queer people and even nature- even though it feels not so much like genuine goodness as it feels like a town full of white people clawing all over each other to get at the last bits of unspoiled earth and good clean air. Walking around with their hands over their ears going LALALALALALA pretending they’re not on a microscopic island of forested mountains in a vast ocean of shitty ugly polluted places where most of the people on earth have to live. Like it’s just a choice. Like you could just up and move to Asheville if you wanted, and people just live in gross toxic places because they like it. And if I moved here I’d just make it safer for white people with more money than me to come in and raise property values and push me out, because everyone knows that queers are just the second wave of gentrification, after the poor-as-dirt accordian-playing crusty-punk footsoldiers.
Ten years ago, the neighborhood my friend lives here was all black. Now it’s almost all white and there’s a raw food café down the street. I’m sure those people of color were real happy when white people decided they wanted to live here in the nice clean mountains where all the trees hadn’t been cut down and scruffy woodsquatters played old-time fiddle on every corner, and so they started “investing” in the area and property values went up and suddenly no-one who lived here could afford to pay their property taxes anymore. And I am part of it, I am almost always part of it, as a queer person, as a poor, young, artistic queer person- pushed along in the ebb and flow of gentrification, each of us in our own strata like lines of washed-up kelp at low tide. Tale as old as time.
Everything we touch turns to white.
Basically- the world I want to live in doesn’t exist anymore. No use moving someplace like an island and pretending that’s all there is. Only thing is, I am who I am and therefore I need good clean air and trees and walking and bike lanes and queer people to be happy. So it’s all about finding a balance between maintaining my personal health and not feeling like an asshole.
I don’t know where to go.
I wish I could put an ad on craigslist that said this-
Want to live in a cabin for free. For three months, anywhere in the whole world. Need only one cord dry wood and one electrical outlet for word processing. Walking/biking distance to something other than wilted conventional produce, coffee shop with gluten-free pumpkin muffins. Non-straight young people in the area a plus.
Just kidding about the muffins. I can make those myself.
So- tomorrow I’m off. West! West through the glorious southwest! To California and finally to Portland! I’ll be updating this along the way whenever I can, lonely, drenched, at a public library in a town near you. I’ll try to take lots of train pictures too, and post them. If four of five days go by without a post, be patient! Library time is short and sometimes there are more important things to do, like gather beans and wait for trains, or walk three miles in the wrong direction, lost. Wish me luck, and safe passage through Texas, the Bermuda Triangle of train-riding!