I’ve recently been thinking about three songs. Each one of them captures the three moods I’ve come to know that accompany my plunge into a new travel.
For those of you who are less familiar with me, I am basically a drifter/vagabond. I’ve been on this ~8-year odyssey of nonstop travel, give or take. Depending on how you cut it, I could also be said to have been traveling for as little as three years. If you wanted, you could even say that I’m not traveling right now because I’ve been living in this apartment (me and the walls) for almost one month. In my head, however, I count the beginning of my travels to be in late 2012, when I first packed up, counted my losses, and headed out west in my GMC conversion van with only $200, thereafter tramping it around the US, freight-riding and the like. Aside from returning (still living in my van) to NYC for about 8 months, I’ve been pretty mobile ever since. In May of 2014 I bought an abrupt one-way ticket to Ukraine, and moseyed around the Eurasian landmass until flying back to attend NPI back in November.
If you’ve seen Five Easy Pieces, you’ll get an idea about how my life works. Basically, at this point I’ve become intimately familiar with bereavement process of jobs falling through, or running out of cash while living in an empty sublet, or getting dumped by girlfriends. Although my parents do live somewhere and I’m theoretically welcome back to crash whenever I want, I wouldn’t say that I have roots anywhere. They moved to a new town when I was 17, and I’ve never been back to my hometown.
This song’s about the hardship felt when one realizes he/she needs to hit the road again. While I couldn’t really pin down a song to capture the emotions I felt when I first cut my losses in life and hit the road in 2012, this Soko song reminds me deeply of when I abandoned my apartment in Berlin that I paid up six months in advance. I had spent months and months working online in India a) writing a screenplay and b) saving up $5,000 cash. The plan was to get a freelance ‘artist’ visa to stay in Berlin, build some roots, and film a pilot for my screenplay.
However, things didn’t go according to plan. When I was checking into my hostel in Berlin, I realized that I had been liberated from my passport, bank cards, and 500 euros cash. (Must’ve been while I took a 10-minute shower at 4:30AM at a hostel in Cologne.)
So there I was, penniless in Berlin. I spent the next two weeks panhandling on the streets everyday to pay the 40 euro/night hostel fees and, to boot, having to frantically move between hostels because it was high season and everything was getting booked faster than I could panhandle. When I finally got my replacement bank card, I was so messed up from the ordeal that the need for four walls and a lockable door hindered my ability to choose an apartment wisely. Well, maybe I’m being unfair to myself–after several days and checking out three apartment sublets, I took a very good-valued studio apartment in Lichtenberg. The catch, however, was that she required that I pay six months’ up front. I paid it, reasoning that I could catch my financial fall by getting right back to work generating income.
However, work was thinner than I expected (even for mid-summer), and I quickly went through my last pennies. There was a few weeks there when I was on what might literally be described as a starvation diet – or at least near-starvation – surviving only on rice, cabbage, and maybe a can of sardines (hopefully) each day.
Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that the area in Lichtenberg-Karlshorst where I lived was basically the middle of nowhere. If you don’t already know some people and you don’t have cash to go out – or even just pay for a metro ticket – it’s basically you and the walls. Needless to say, I cut my losses and left the apartment right when the whether was starting to get cold, in early October. From there, I hitched due south, eventually getting to Greece about a month later.
Of course, when you reset your expectations to “I’m literally going to die in a ditch, gonna drink myself to death in the meantime”, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised. After the initial hardships of getting south through Central Europe and across the Alps, I had outrun the autumn and things were shaping up. I had a great time going down through Croatia, Albania, and Greece. I had a great time in Greece on Lesvos, volunteering in a makeshift refugee camp. I did so not through any volunteering group, so literally just hung out at the camp, living off the free food and stuff. People would even bring me beer because I was one of the guys who would spend each night at the camp (usually with a couple others, chilling around the fire.)
For the curious, the screenplay was later adapted to my novel, DEATHTOTHEWORLD.
This song is the cardinal opposite of the Soko song. It celebrates an idyllic concept of hitting the road. It reminds me of when I went on my second freight-riding tour, after realizing that I had hit rock-bottom again in February of 2014. I was in a tiny room in a shared apartment that I’d gotten after failing for several months to make money as a real estate huckster (I’m too honest… and I was penniless, living in my van under the BQE and having to hop the turnstile to get to work each morning); after getting ‘laid off’ from some mind-numbing call center job soliciting money for the ACLU and after – my last ditch effort – working literally every day for 33 days straight, each day for 13 hours straight, selling Xmas trees on 2nd Ave and 33rd St (if I remember right…). At the end of it, I had saved up (including tips) a solid $2,500. This meant that my labor had been valued by market forces to be worth an upper limit of about $6/hour.
My expenditures for that month would’ve been no more than probably $200 because I was still living in my van and was buying my food with my $200/month allotment of food stamps. Anyway, I used that $2,500 to move into the aforementioned room in a shared apartment in Bed-Stuy. However, when you go through such long stints of pennilessness and try to get back into meeting normal living standards – gotta spend money to make money – it is easy to sort of bottom-out. Anyway, I tried to jump-start my real estate career by injecting cash into it that I had previously lacked. This, however, failed miserably, and the walls closed in.
Not only was that Willie Nelson song pumping through my veins in February of 2014, but so was this Devil Makes Three song, which for me conjures up vivid memories of freight riding, particularly during my first freight-riding tour in the winter of 2012-2013. By the time late-Feb came around (returning now to 2014), I hit the rails again, emboldened by such songs as this. For the first week or so, my buddy Mathias and I were basically starving and almost freezing because it was still winter in Philadelphia, and the train that we thought would take us down to the auto plants of the South made a middle-of-the-night turn into the Pennsylvanian hinterland. After probably 48 hours of extremely slow-going, the train took us to Pittsburg (go figure), where the temperature went as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit one night.
We found awesome donation-based (IE: super hipster) hostels in both Pittsburg and Cincinnati. After donating food stamp food to each of them, I spent the last of my cash to get a bus ticket down to Birmingham because it was simply too cold to leave Pittsburg by hitching or freight-riding.
From Birmingham, we hitched through ‘Bama, stopping to party at Tuscaloosa, into ‘Ssippi. During much of this time (as during my second freight-riding tour, which was also in the Deep South), we subsisted mostly on dumpster-dived food, kicked-down fast food leftovers, and getting invited to barbecues. However, what may have been our primary source of food was going up to fried chicken joints an hour before closing, and asking them if they could give us the chicken they’d later be throwing out. Aside from begging for gas at gas stations during my initial van travel, getting free fried chicken was probably the other most rewardingly reliable hustle you could possibly have.
We continued hitching through ‘Ssippi, drinking ridiculous amounts of booze and eating ridiculous amounts of fried chicken and other ‘soul food’. We eventually got to New Orleans. During the few weeks I was there, I squatted my own church that had been abandoned since Hurricane Katrina, and a major staple of my diet was ~6 year-old MREs in the church basemen. My next-door neighbor was literally a crackhead.
We tripped on a bunch of acid in New Orleans, and then Mathias went back north. I got a freight train that took me to Houston and then on to a little town called Lolita, not far from Victoria, Texas. I painted a house here for like ~$100, having been outsourced the work from undocumented Mexican immigrants.
I then continued south, getting down to Corpus Christi. I would’ve gone down into Mexico, but the 2014 Amren conference was coming up, so I had to get back north to Nashville to attend it.
I actually had bought tickets to Amren before even leaving NYC/Philly. I had also tried to go to Amren the year before, during my second freight-riding tour, but arrived there right at the tail end of the conference and without a ticket or proper attire. They had turned me away.
At this second Amren, I technically had a ticket and proper attire (though was dressed sort of like a clown). However, I was camping in the woods. Jared Taylor and the other organizers seemed very paranoid about my presence, and the park police constantly harassed me, accusing me of camping illegally in the forest. (Though it was true that I’d been camping illegally in the park, they had no evidence with which to dispute my claim that I was camping illegally–but in private lands outside the park’s jurisdiction.) Nevertheless, they basically said I’d have my conference ticket rescinded if I didn’t let them extort me into forking over the last of my cash to camp in the RV park several miles away.
(Remind me to tell y’all later of my second freight-riding tour, during which I got lost in a swamp outside of Waycross for a solid 24 hours – without food, water, or flashlight, and desperately avoiding alligators – literally thinking I was going to die.)
Anyway, you might be wondering I have been writing such a blog entry as this where I would normally have made a YT video. The reason is that I’ve sort of bottomed-out in these past couple weeks. I haven’t socialized at all basically since moving in here four weeks ago. I haven’t been doing much money-work at all, and have almost (just about) exhausted my cash.
I can’t find it on YT, but the Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Travel On” from his Self Portrait album is a great song that strikes that elusive, bittersweet middle ground. It’s as up-beat and lackadaisical as it is hopeless.
Anyway, the reason it’s so forlorn between these walls (more than four, actually, cuz I got a whole one-bedroom apartment to myself) is largely because I got de facto dumped by my de facto girlfriend couple weeks ago. She (and her friends) were the only people I had known in Baltimore, and my place is right at the frontier of the Baltimore ghetto.
My neighborhood has that ‘frontier’ sort of silent tension about it. However, if you just turn up the block, you start walking into the straight Baltimore ghetto. 0.5 kilometers, and you’d think you were in Haiti or something. This adds to the ‘walls’ around me because, not only can I not really afford to spend more than a few dollars each day – let alone aim toward being sociable – but my immediate area is a dangerous, wintery hell hole. In the times I have left my apartment, I’ve overheard more than one girl tell somebody else about how she got mugged and (threatened with) rape. While I wouldn’t be so sketched if I wasn’t in such a period of contraction, for the time being I am just not cued for any intense social interaction – let alone deflecting potential muggers. My confidence is low.
But yeah, I’m in that ‘gearing up to hit the road again…’ mentality because in two days I go to DC to attend the DeploraBALL, and immediately thereafter I take a bus to NYC to go to Ecuador for a month before going to Sweden for the alt-right conference there. I was originally going to be straight hitching/camping with my de facto gf in Ecuador, but she’s not coming anymore, and I’m down to my last few hundred dollars. I gotta mostly work while there. (Although I might go hitchhiking into Colombia to check out the tail end of a Rainbow Gathering.)
Even though work is extremely thin right now, I could’ve made more if I wasn’t so transfixed on the Twittersphere, trying to hustle my novel and working on other non-money projects.
Well, I have enough to carry me through. I’ve been mostly working on my non-money work
I will try to get into a good monkish rhythm in Ecuador, filling my coffers back up a little while also working on a secret creative project.
After Sweden (already bought tickets), I’ll likely get a ten-year India visa and go back to my ashram for maybe three months to save up even more money, and continue to work on projects.
At the moment, I’m planning to re-enroll to my Alma Mater to finish my Bachelor’. I have three years toward a degree in physics, and about two years toward an English degree. I’m thinking of pursuing English instead, however, as it is more aligned with my life’s purpose. I will see if I can take a couple courses also in ethics and human rights stuff, maybe even social justice. It would be good if I could finish my degree in such a way that would give me a leg to stand on if I were to consider applying for law school. After all, a law degree would be an explosive weapon with which to fight the good fight.
Originally, I had balked at the idea of ever going back to finish my degree. After all, I had completed the education that I had sought there, and I wanted to do other things. (During what would have been my senior year, I ended up going all-in using my university’s resources to write there stage plays, one of which I successfully staged and which @ShearTheSheep had acted in. I then dropped out to go to Israel, where I stayed for 15 months and studied in yeshiva.
I had long told myself that if I didn’t ‘make it’ by the age of 30, that I would go back to finish my degree. You know, cut my losses, get whatever career I could, and get a wife.
However, I now see the opportunity to be back on campus for another year or two to be a potentially amazing opportunity. I’d be completing a full circle that would put me back on the real front lines in the struggle against antiracism.
Anyway, besides feeling too disheveled and scattered to make a YT video right now, the other reason why I’m writing this long, personal entry is that I’m currently working on a new site, which will exist the ‘front door’ to my web presence, with AcidRight.INFO existing from here onward more as my personal blog.