the way I came

I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.
-from Song of the Open Road, Walt Whitman

A couple of hours ago, I was pedaling furiously down the shoulder of US 1, headphones in to block the traffic out, when what had been a light drizzle turned into a vicious, pounding rain. Just as it was really getting heavy, Radiohead’s “Body Snatchers” came on and I was swept up in its rebelious, forward beat. I pedalled harder and screamed at the traffic. When it ended, Wu-Tang’s “Da Mystery of Chessboxing” started up, and I laughed wildly, my shoes soaked with water, my socks pumping it out at the seams with every downstroke. Semis and dumptrucks annointed me with their spray, and I was born again, a grimy, slimy beast of the highway. I have rarely felt as strong as I did at that moment.

Then I got into Waldoboro, knowing that I could either stop at Moody’s Motel for $50, or go another 20 miles and camp for $28, or maybe try my luck at finding a guerilla spot again (hadn’t seen anything promising in last 20+ miles though, not since hitting US 1). My headphones were malfunctioning, my adrenalin waning, a place to get dry and stay dry sounded good.

So I come to you tonight from the screened porch of my cabin at Moody’s, my clothes drying on a plastic deck chair beside me, with a fan I found in the closet pointed at them. And even though I paid for this good fortune with cold hard cash, I count my stay here at Moody’s among the magical happenstances of travel. As it turns out, Moody’s has been here since the 1920s and has been run by the same family all along. I rang the buzzer in the office and a grandson of the founding Moody walked over from the house and checked me into my room. He told me it was one of his five jobs. He also works at Moody’s Diner in the evening, and runs Moody’s Giftshop. On top of that, he’s the preacher at a church five miles out of town. I didn’t catch the fifth job, but I do know that he was born in Newfoundland, that a very unique bay near his hometown is where they filmed a scene of The Spirit of St. Louis, and that he has a son who just finished aviation school and just recently filled in as pilot on Donald Trump’s private jet–among other assorted details of his life and knowledge, which if I am to judge by this ten minute encounter, must be quite vast.

The cabins/motel look like a set from ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ or ‘Thieves Like Us’. It’s exactly the sort of place I imagine Joni Mitchell staying at as she traveled around the country writing Hejira, the screened porches inviting the itinerant writer to make a retreat of them. And I’ve been itching to get some things off my chest. But now here I am, knee deep in this blog, and I haven’t said any of them.


I’ve started this blog–or the one I’ve been meaning to write–four or five times. And I’ve grown frustrated and erased it every time. When I was at Kripalu, I told Dre that something I hoped to learn on this trip was to bring the peace that I feel while traveling back home with me. Instead it seems I’m introducing some of my home-life frustrations to my travel-life. Maybe it’s part of the process.

It began the day I left Boston. Or maybe it didn’t. Any time I stop for more than a day is a crisis. I started to recognize this on my last trip. By the time I came to leave Cleveland, this go-around, I was fully aware of it. I don’t get lonely while traveling, until I stop for more than a day. I don’t entirely understand why this is. It’s like the social animal in me awakens, confused and groping for meaningful interaction.

This was the final part of the Cleveland tale that I never got around to telling. After I left the museum–which was more closed than open due to renovation–I walked in circles through the downtown area, hungry and bewildered. I finally sat down at an overpriced and obnoxious Italian place because I was exhausted and it was named after a Fellini movie: the only reason I could find to like anything at the moment. I ate my meager pasta portion, tried to gauge the relationship between the late middle-aged Italian-American guy and the much younger woman he was singing all the restaurant’s songs to, and left the snooty waiter a snooty tip. Then I walked up the street to the huge, coarse Irish pub that I thought was a chain but wasn’t, overflowing with loud and fuddled Indians fans. Surly and spiteful, I sat down at the bar and ordered a fish ‘n chips and a Guinness. Mellowed by the grease and the Guinness I struck up a conversation with the couple to the left of me and the guy to the right. We were all just visiting the city, and my story garnered the requisite oohs and ahs. The couple was planning to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the guy on my right was in town for a concert. So we talked music a while, but ultimately the conversation ran out of steam. The couple turned their attention back to each other, and the guy on the right went to join the friends who’d finally arrived. He wished me luck as he left. I had a Jameson for dessert, and the couple also wished me luck as I got up to leave. I went back to my hotel room, flipped through the channels, took some pictures, put on some music, and accepted the return of loneliness. I knew there’d be little joy as I set out in the morning, and I slept poorly in that big, cushy Hampton Inn bed that night.

That’s as much as I can do tonight, but here’s a little more Whitman to close:

Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied–he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love–if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.
Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes strategems and envelopes for you and me?
Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashioned, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?


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