Wednesday, October 26, 2011

noun, verb, & adjective

What is the word? 'Vagrant'? 'Vagabond'? 'Traveler' would do it didn't bring to mind Phileas Fogg with his steamer trunk, or those new 'travelers' and their trademarks of dogs, dreds, and drugs.

'Transient' perhaps? That's a good one since it seems a near cousin to 'transcendant,' but the connection makes it seem like I have aspirations of Emerson, or rather, like those who emulate him.

I've always liked 'hobo.' I wander, I camp, I forage for food, I work when I find it. Tho I suspect there has to be some sort of locomotive component to that title. Altho I followed rail lines for much of the West Coast and the Midwest, I have never hopped freights and have no intention to. And, having visited the Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa, I think there might be some sort of national brotherhood or creed to which one must subscribe in order to be a hobo. I've already got memberships to co-ops, coffee shops, and libraries all over the place. I'm not sure I can adopt any additional manifestos.

'Swagman' is good. As in 'once camped a swagman down beside a billabong..." I only just thought of that one when I realized that I do boil water in a billy, and I only think of a billy as one because that was how it was introduced to me. However, usually I just call it what it is - a rusted coffee can. I do like the word. It puts me in league with all those other -men. Snowman. Sandman. Batman. But it does place me in the uncomfortable position of having to articulate what my 'swag' is, and how I use it, and whether or not I waltz it around. I'm not even sure I know these things.

How about 'tramp?' It is a versatile word, being noun, verb, and adjective; as in "The tramp tramped aboard the tramp steamer." (let's see, translation: "The wanderer walked aboard the steam ship that allows wanderers.") And it seems to be a word that, oddly, has different associations depending on the sex to which it is applied. Charlie Chaplin's "The Tramp" compared to Tony Bennet's "The Lady is a Tramp." Also known as 'Gentlemen of the road' in England. A homeless Romantic?

Yep, that seems about right. I have been tramping about the countryside and I do have some oddly polished manners: I shave at least once a week, drink tea from a porcelaine cup, read Alan Watts. Tramp it shall be.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Photographs: Folks and Lakes

Some previously unpublished photographs of people by lakes. In this case, Lake Michigan from Chicago, Illinois and Lake McDonald from Glacier National Park, Montana.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Steelcup travel, looking for beds, breaking and entering

Just as I had been told, I found the house with the blue VW bus in the backyard where I could sleep for the night. No one had bothered to lock the bus, or even roll up the windows, so I threw my pack in the back and then tried the backdoor of the house. Nobody home, which had been mentioned to me, but always best to check. Then I went for the front door, but on the way noticed the screen on a first story window was loose. It came off without any damage, so I opened up my knife and slid the blade under the sill and lifted. Unlocked. Soon my feet were kicking aside blinds and stuffed animals in the evening's early glow and I was on the bed of a little girl, to judge by the furnishings. Standing up, I shut the window, then went out thru the backdoor to replace the screen.

Sure, I could sleep in the bus, like I had slept in the culvert, or the abandoned truck, or under the bridge, or any number of other places that had come up just as the day had gotten too dark to keep walking. But on the other side of the wall there would be a bed, or a couch, or at least some carpeted space and blankets, and - preciously - hot water. I would rather have a cup of hot water each day than to have a bed each night. I value my steel cup more than my down bag and use it far more frequently and for many more things. Drinking, eating, cooking, shaving, bathing, collecting - both food and money. Clanging as it hangs from the outside of my pack it has been my bear-bell in the Rockies and proclaimed me as a vagabond in the towns. Tonight, I would drink wine out of it.

I am forgetting to mention something.

Yes, I was breaking into this man's house. But this was breaking and entering of a legally permissible kind. He had messaged me from Louisville with the OK and I had kept his phone number in case anyone should show up. But the neighbors didn't know that. And in such situations, I've generally found it best to proceed without hesitation, to look as tho I belong in the place - a renter who has forgotten his keys, or been locked out. Looking for the ends of yard work to do, I pulled a few weeds out from around the firepit and sorted recyclables, not out of any sense of wrong done to property but to complete the illusion. It seemed the sort of nonchalant, suburban banality that no observer would report. Perhaps, to lay on the sauce, I could act even more residential. Pull out the shopvac. Where some white-white shoes. Mount a ride-on mower. But no one was watching.

Back inside, I made myself dinner, drank the man's wine, watched his Buster Keaton collection from the couch that I would sleep on. Someday, I thought, I'm going to travel with my own bed.