The transition from living in a crowded flat to being alone in a 100 square foot house truck happened gradually. On the road all day, you slept and showered in motel rooms for the first 900 or so miles of the long drive going nowhere. The abrupt jump to hard core box truck off-grid overnights felt like it might be too much of a severing from the media soaked warm electrical comforts of the urban environment you'd grown so accustomed to. Small steps of post traumatic sleep happened in 20 minute increments anyway. Perhaps that also explains this next paragraph's engineering.
While in this heightened meditative state of constant traveling with a squeaky clean brain and oversensitive intuitive imaginings given a free rein, you fell open to seeing and feeling things that would usually go safely unnoticed on the other side of the veil. Some locations tolled of the truly sinister; where the blood soaked land was magnetically cursed, where you could sense the atrocities and bodies of abused children hurriedly buried in the dirt, where rape and murder were common occurances, where hurt begets hurt begets hurt begets hurt. Still other places glowed with tranquility; as if the groves of trees outlined ancient ancestral churches still resonating with healing energy, open to anyone willing to acknowledge them and pay tribute in the discreet sacred streams that lingered there, natural unpolluted and forgiving. Whether you liked it or not, you were now a fledgling psychopomp, with one foot here on earth and the other pushing the pedal toward realms unknown but somehow familiar and inert.
But before you, Gentle Reader, sigh "Oh geez", roll your eyes and click delete, please keep these brief points in mind:
Pre-Victorian era, there was no such word as "normal". People were simply seen for the eccentric or honest or greedy or ethical or deviant or uptight or kind or unscrupulous or generous mannerisms which they outwardly displayed. There was no bell curve for behavior. There was only acceptance and praise or blame and ostracization from society.
By the 1950's, it was believed that only schizophrenics dreamt in color. Normal dreamers saw everything in black and white.
Knowing what we know now of these false hypotheses in the burgeoning age of CERN and quantum theory, perhaps at some future point, parapsychological episodes or electrokinesis or telepathy or binaural healing might seem as normal as swiss cheese.
Of course, this could only occur after the human race evolves enough to accept that a woman, Einstein's first wife, Mileva, was largely responsible for the development of the Theory of Relativity before her name got whitewashed off the manuscript of this groundbreaking scientific discovery and left her divorced, penniless and dying alone in a tiny freezing cell of an asylum in the mountains of Bavaria.
Humans would also have to take a big arrogant step back at the realization that it has far less genes in its DNA makeup than do all the plants and trees.
We might be wrong about a lot of things.
Abandoned but still occupied by squatters of some kind, the Sunset Inn was in no way inviting. Coated in a thick haze of sadness and desperation, you never even bothered getting out of the truck but instead stayed in the cab burning sage in the parking lot, trying to bring at least some short spark of relief to the party of ghosts trapped therein. Native tribes say that a breeze will come and tell you when your ritual is complete. And it did. Feeling watched by lots of weirded out uncomfortable eyes, you quickly drove away.
At 1 AM, in need of a bath and some sleep, you checked in to room 201, but there was no rest or cleanliness coming. The door wouldn't even close properly, having been obviously kicked in at some point, according to the half crushed and splintered door jam. Under the polyester bedspread laid a rough blood stained mattress. The pink and brown tiled bathroom was rank and disturbing. A thick black shadow crouched in the bath tub crying. Dizzy, no part of you could avoid the sickly feeling that this room had no room for you as it was already filled with animosity bludgeoning and betrayal, so you checked out 15 minutes later, still tired and stinking.
More of a cult compound than a hotel, the Little Tree's main lobby was stuck in the 70's. The place was crawling with left over energies. When you checked into your first assigned room, a heavy black mass assaulted you as soon as you went in. Even though the curtains were wide open no amount of light would lighten up this presence as it sat on your chest like emphasema, rage and unrest. Complaining at the front desk that there was no way you
could sleep in that room, the receptionist was not surprised as she hears this all the time, she said. The second room felt slightly better, so you took a quick shower but shaken and anxious, you couldn't sleep there either. Burning sage at the front of the hotel compound's entrance, you checked out. But that presence was still sitting on your lungs and did not let you breathe freely again for another mile and a half after driving it off with some severe blessings.
With $2 left to your name, you arrived in Cleveland knowing no one and nothing. It was the first time you truly felt scared. Images of rape and murder accosted you as you pulled into a fast food parking lot on Loraine Road and purchased your last meal of coffee and ice cream. Crying over the styrofoam cup, huddled in the back of your box truck in the dark, you'd never felt this destitute in all your years of self-reliant abandonment. Randomly opening your tiny Tao book, the first words you read were "Truly, the sage prefers what is within to what is without." And you immediately calmed down and started breathing again.
Driving across the street you pulled into a grocery store parking lot where another motorhome was clearly parking long term. Turning off your engine, pulling down the roll up door, you went to bed and slept longer and harder than ever before. For 9 days you stayed in this spot. No money no food no nothing. Large pots of tea warmed over a discreet camp stove kept you going just long enough to go back to bed and sleep off some more recovering.
One morning, a Puerto Rican man driving a semi pulled up next to you and asked you what you were doing. "Making tea," you whimpered, expecting to be told you couldn't stay there and that you needed to go. But instead, he comforted you. A former drug addict and ex-convict, he compassionately said he knew the manager at the store and that it was ok for you to stay. Like your neighbor in the motorhome, she couldn't afford an apartment that would let her have dogs, so she'd been living in this parking lot and working part time at the grocery store for a couple years now. Later, the man's wife brought you some home cooked rice and vegetables and chicken which tasted so good, tears of gratitude pooled up on the edge of the paper plate as you hungrily wolfed it all down over a single candle's light. The next day, they gave you a $20 bill without any pretense or expectation, so you made your way toward A Separate Reality record store where you sold your huge coveted vinyl collection to a nice guy named Gus for enough money to buy food, fill up your gas tank and get moving again.
It was easy to stay clean as long as you were driving, but sitting still brought on the overanalysis and grief to a degree that soon enough you'd start getting itchy to kill the pain of thinking. Saying Thank You to the Puerto Rican couple a million times, you drove away sadly.Even in the midst of so much poverty and suffering, with boarded up copper-stripped foreclosed homes, empty meat packing plants and disused steel factories rotting not too far from provincial little pockets of rich white people in clean sleek bars consuming some new privileged investment and continually celebrating, Cleveland was a bleak place with a heart of gold, bleeding.
THE GREAT AMERICAN PIANO COMPANY
Your beloved piano was made by Fischer & Sons in New York City in 1897. Of the 5000 pianos the family skillfully crafted before their small company was bought out by the larger steamrolling corporation, The Great American Piano Company, your piano was #4996. Perhaps that would explain the keyboard's inherent sadness, that the bittersweet loss of love and life sang from it's solid brass sound board. Somehow the piano made it's way from
New York to San Francisco where you rescued it, so out of complete devotion to this object that showed you more unconditional love than any human being, you wanted to bring it back home.
Pulling off the Palisades Parkway into a strip mall to buy some groceries at 8 in the morning, you noticed a huge Going Out Of Business sign on one of the neighboring storefronts. It was The Great American Piano Company. No longer situated in The City, they'd been downsized into this one last little outlet near Hoboken. So you rolled up the house truck's door so that the spirits of the piano makers could see that their corporate conquerors had also met the same fate 119 years later. All was forgiven. Nothing lasts. Everything disappears. Then you and your happy piano drove away, unembittered with this subtle change of the great inevitable fate every one of us is always facing.
ROOSEVELT, NEW JERSEY
Growing up in this town from age 12 to 16, most of your formative bile-filled years were spent in this weird little hamlet. Founded by it's namesake president as part of the WPA to battle the Great Depression in the 1930's, the town planning construction guidelines got mixed up with a similar project elsewhere in the country, so all of the houses were built as single story, flat roofed cement block buildings, meant to be situated in the desert. Somewhere out in Arizona, there's a similar town made of A frame colonial homes, fending off the snows that never come.
This odd place and the colorful people there had become icons of your subconscious mind, hard wired into your way of thinking and feeling, so standing on this ground again physically was truly overwhelming. Not much had changed. Except for all the changes you'd seen in your dreams, they all had basis in reality. That road was finally paved. Those empty potato fields were now filled with new tract houses. The deli had a new name.
Walking through a path in the woods from your old school yard to where your best friend, Kelli lived, there was a spot that always scared you as a kid. And it still did. It rang of something horribly traumatic having happened there, like rape or torture. So for the first time in your life, you ventured into the woods to confront this forboding energy. Sitting on a log, you waited and listened. Soon you heard a name that sounded like "Jane Randall". Images of violent screaming rages beat you nearly unconscious and you were overcome with a seering debilitating sadness. Crumbling to the ground, draped in cobwebs dirt and moss, you wailed uncontrollably until finally wandering back onto the path in a daze an hour later. As soon as you were out of the woods, that feeling vanished as if nothing had happened.
A few miles out of town, you stopped by the tiny abandoned cemetary just off route 541. You used to hold your breath on the school bus or in your parent's car whenever you passed by this creepy dark graveyard. Long ago, there must have been a church there but now nothing was standing, only a handful of crooked tombstones in this forgotten place. As soon as you entered, you made a beeline to the first burial plot whose 200 year old headstone barely read "James Reynolds".
Back in the woods, you had assumed that the victim of all that violence must have been female. But every part of you now knew it was a little boy. Researching his name told the story of James Reynolds and his older brother John who were great heroes in the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. As this country fought for independence, these 2 deathwishing teenage boys rode first out into the front lines, inspiring all of those grown men behind them with their sheer bravery. Clearly, the severe abuse they had suffered as children from their father figure at that spot in the woods where their small house once stood had driven them into thrillseeking, fearing nothing. But they went from being young war heroes to troubled impoverished adult horse thieves that ended up imprisoned for their incorrigable petty crimes. In Trenton's State Penitentiary, James' brother John died. During his remaining years, James turned to the church to feel some kind of peace but suicide took him in 1831. This was why his headstone was on the north side of the graveyard facing east not west like the rest of the cemetary's socially acceptable tenants. You did a releasing ritual for him and sadly left Roosevelt behind, knowing the root of this place would continue living solidly inside you.
You made sure to visit your old house, the public swimming pool and that one tree where you always ran to hide and cry and pray for a better life. Picking up all the fractured pieces that your soul had left behind. But you wouldn't let yourself go until you'd written an open letter and posted it on the Community Bulletin Board. It shouted aloud about the sexual abuse your brother, his friends and countless other boys had suffered in that town, 30 years prior, at the pious hands of the late Reverend John Gruel. There is no justice except in the painfully bright light of truth, no matter how long it takes to shine.
NEWPORT, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Driving up I-89 north over Mount Sunapee, images of women's mutilated bodies came at you from out of the clouds to rain down on your mind's eye incessantly. You had to pull off into a rest stop just to catch your breath cuz this weird ass shit was horrendous and unexplainably confusing.
Realizing you were almost out of fuel, you took the next exit into a town called Claremont in search of a pawn shop to sell something. But when you found the gold buyer's shop with every wall filled to the brim with ticking clocks, he took one look at your sorry collection of trinkets and shook his head no. Seeing the utter disappointment on your sinking face, he asked about your giant box truck with California plates parked in his small gravel driveway so you told him what you were up to. His elderly blue eyes lit up and he handed you ten bux, saying you might have more luck at the pawn shop in the next town over. Smiling, you shook his hand, whispering, "Thank You."
Arriving in Newport, you parked in a dirt lot across the street from the pawn shop but it was already closed. So you sat next to the little stream running under Main Street and began collecting firewood to make some tea and wait until morning. Apparently, the restaurant owner of this lot was not happy about you being there, so he called the cops. You'd become fairly used to this routine by now. You said all the things you always say. And as usual, the cops were more intrigued by the idea of your house truck than in arresting you. They seemed stunned by this anomaly -- a calm drug free white woman traveling alone across the country. You wondered if this was your newfound duty; to convince law enforcement officials to quit their jobs and go off-grid, one by one, city by city.
So you drove to the other side of town and stopped behind a derelict strip mall that only had one smoke shop left in operation. You pulled up to the edge of the lot next to a thick forest and began collecting firewood again. The younger cop had followed you there but didn't come to harrang you. He just wanted to talk about his many camping trips to Canada with his dad, and wondered aloud wistfully if he could ever do what you were doing. You assured him that he could.
It was getting dark, so you quickly got back to wood collecting. But someone else was watching you. Everytime you moved, a crunch like footstep would crack just behind your back and you'd turn around to find nothing. Pick up a stick. Crack. Turn around quick. Nothing. Again. And again. You could feel eyes boring into you from behind. Getting scared, you decided against making a fire and listened to your gut as it was now screaming, "RUN!" Pulling down your roll up door, you jumped in bed and waited for sleep to come.
Around midnight, a loud low bell sound jolted you awake. Every fibre in your body said, "Someone's in here!" And in a split second, all your alarming hairs stood on end. The air got hot and sticky as you glimpsed a grayish white mist forming and transforming into a sickly grinning bulging eyed face that held nothing human or caring in it's hungry gaze. Long wispy arms were unfolding toward you, so you shut your eyes tight, burying your head in a pillow. Knowing your only defense was to not feed this thing any fear, you concentrated on your heartbeat, quietly chanting in your head with each steady and controlled breath. It hovered above you, inspecting and sniffing. Malevolent. Demonic. Attached to this male entity sprawled a procession of dead women. Their tangled body parts were bound together as they wept in desperation, dragged about like slaves, helpless puppets on muddy inescapable chains.
Suddenly you could feel the thoughts of this nauseating presence; his coldness, his lack of empathy, his sterile self-interest, his clinical curiosity in the female anatomy. Look how the blood flows from this dug out artery, how this sinewy tendon detatches from that one, see how far I can push these different razor sharp implements into this muscled hole before hitting bone. No part of him felt concern for the women he was skinning alive. The shrieks that came with each excrutiating piercing tug meant absolutely nothing to him.
Keep chanting. Calmly. Breathe. After some time, you could sense the procession of women leaving as the presence lost interest in you and floated away with his victims, back out into the woods. Bolting out of bed, you ran to start up the engine and drove off as fast as you fucking could.
Pulling into a Dunkin Donuts at 1 AM, you sat hiding in the truck, hour after hour, nervously waiting for the grace of sunrise to make things seem alright again as panic broke over you in waves of what-the-fuck-just-happened??! It was clear morning was nearing when the girl who was stuck working at the drive-thru window increasingly repeated, "Welcome to Dunkin Donuts. How can I help you." Each time, her mood changed slightly through the loudspeaker, depending on how sweet or bitchy the previous customer had treated her. Focusing on her voice for those slow sleepless hours calmed you down until the sun finally came up and you could face the regular world like normal people do.
Then you went into the pawn shop with your various electronics and tools to hock. But far more beneficial was the reaction the staff had to you asking, "Have there been a bunch of women murdered in this town?" The owner's wife and mother both piped up, "Yes! Back in the 90's. There were like 20 young girls, nurses, they all went missing. And no one ever found out who did it." Hands on your hips, you were instantly angry and determined to correct this. "I'll be back in a little while," you said as you stormed out of the pawn shop.
Standing on the iron bridge that crosses over the stream on Main Street, you asked out loud, "Who did this?" And the dead women told you his name. Then a rapid river of information came flooding in: He was the grandson of a well-to-do doctor in town but due to mental illness, he could never finish medical school. He was an embarrassment and a failure to his family's reputation. That's why he targeted them, they were all nurses in training. Living in his mom's basement near Elm Street, he killed himself because of some flippant remark she'd made. Their body parts were scattered in the woods behind the old mall, along with the remains of his initial "practice" pre-killing spree victim, his 12 year old niece. They all needed restitution and peace. So, you went back to the woods, burned sage, rang bells and released the spirits of every one of those brutalized women, 22 in all. With each chime, you could feel a different smile, a different personality, a different life passing through you to go bask in the light. But the hardest part was releasing the sick fuck that did this to them with chime 23. Somehow you had to find compassion even for mankind's worst specimen.
Writing all of the necessary information in a letter that may have sounded crazy, you dropped it in the mail slot of the police station next door to the pawn shop. Gladly selling your power drill for next to nothing, you got the hell out of Newport. Back on the highway north, passing again over Mt. Sunapee, you closed that small circled quicksanding valley where you'd just glanced an agonizing evil and a more blissful eternity.
With a triple rainbow spanning the skies over Montpelier, everyone kept telling you where the circus was parked, thinking they'd lost one of their nomadic tribe members. You just smiled and asked about pawn shops. But they didn't do such low class establishments in this tinkerbell metropolis. So you headed south to Barre where things were dirty and poor, where you belonged.
The pawn shop owner kept giving you the runaround. Come back in an hour. Another hour. Around 3. Tomorrow maybe. So you found a place to park temporarily in a narrow alley alongside the town's little courthouse. People on the street were noticeably jittery and soon a cop was opening your door, demanding to know what you were smoking. He yanked the hand rolled cigarette from your fist and gave it a good sniff. Yup. Not weed. But something in you suggested not getting snarky with this scowling triggery pig. He was having a hard day, you figured.
The next day back at the pawn shop, waiting for the owner to show up again, you met a middle aged woman named Kim. She was friendly, a bit disheveled, with a cast on her arm. She said her nephews jumped her, hit her with a crowbar and stole a bunch of shit from her in order to get more dope.
Everyone in every American villiage you went through said the same thing. "This town was so different before heroin came flooding in. Now we're all scared and dying."
But Kim's most shocking story was what had just happened there a couple days before your arrival. A woman had her kids taken away by the state because her relatives turned her in for being a drug addicted unfit mother. She retaliated by going to their house armed to the teeth. Her relatives were found tied to their dining room chairs, shot multiple times, throats slit, tongues cut out and scattered upon the kitchen counter. Then she showed up at the courthouse. The Family Services lawyer and social worker that took her kids were filled with an untold number of bullets. On the steps, they bled out as the avenging mother was arrested.
This explained that freakazoid cop's reaction to you parking a mere 20 feet from the scene of the crime, why everyone was staring at you with darty eyes. You don't know what lead you to park at the very edge of that vacuum, where the black hole of violent death had so recently been, but it was definitely time to get out.
So you said goodbye to Kim, went back into the pawn shop and spoke to the owner's wife, saying you really needed that ten bux promised to you yesterday cuz waiting and sitting still makes you wanna get high again. Thankfully, she understood your desperation. Soon you were back on the highway going wherever else. God forbid.
(to be continued...)
*u can call me ph!*