I was driving up the 7 last week listening to the Twilight soundtrack the other day. Yes, I own a Twilight soundtrack. I was broke and homeless in Eugene and the used cd store, Skip’s Records, was selling them for than the new retail value at Target (thanks a lot hipsters). After searching around several St. Vinnie’s and Good Wills I was coming up short. By the way every thrift shop has a copy of Seal and Celine Dionne. Every. Single. One of them. Kind of makes you think about how movies influence the music industry and vice versa. Anyways, I found the Twilight soundtrack and “Blue Eyes on Fire” reminds me of good times with a partner of mine so I purchased it for $1 at Good Will. Oh and it has Muse on it. They’re alright when not associated with vampire movies.
Back to my drive. So I’m driving through these mountains listening to the soundtrack. I get the most wonderful feeling when I’m driving solo with nothing but the trees, the steep curves of the road, and the music playing on my stereo. It can’t be described as anything less than euphoric. But then this song comes on.
You know that feeling when a song sums up your feelings in a way that you can’t? It’s that aha moment. Well I had that. Funny cause I didn’t like this song at first and now it’s my favorite song on the cd. But that wasn’t my epiphany.
Its September 2nd and I’ve got a half an hour before I head into work. Why am I working? I’m supposed to be traveling? About a month ago I decided to buy a truck so I wouldn’t have to decide between hitching alone or spending a ton on buses every month. I wanted a place to be able to rest my head and feel a little safer at night. So I got Lucy. Lucy’s alright, she gets me where I’m going. For now. You see I sold my car, my last tie to my old life in Massachusetts to my mom when her transmission started to go last month. After purchasing Lucy, a 1996 Nissan Pathfinder for $1300 I found out that she needed new tire. New tire rods meant I needed an alignment. And oh what do you know she needed all new tires. Instantly I was out an additional $500 and there’s still a couple of things that I chose not to take care of. Soon after I developed a severe dental infection and I was off to Portland to get the care I needed. I went from three grand to about $200 in the course of two weeks. Did I mention that Lucy’s probably going to die? Oh yeah, her engine’s going and she’s going to die in the next couple months if not tomorrow. I was pretty heartbroken. I had plans for Lucy. I wanted to drive her across the country and back in October. I still might take her on a suicide mission but that’s all in the future.
Anyways, at that point I didn’t even have enough to afford gas money, insurance, and all those other expenses you get to deal with when you have a vehicle. So yeah, I needed some cash. In Eugene, Oregon I was able to get craigslist job after craigslist job. I shoveled dirt, cleaned up after construction crews, and bought pantyhose and underwear for a crossdresser who was too nervous to go into the store and make purchases for himself. He liked my style. The craigslist game takes a lot of energy. It’s a competitive market. You have to check and post several times a day and I soon tired of having to spend so much of my day on a website. I decided to suck it up and get a job. But I wasn’t about to settle down somewhere and get just any job. No, I was going to make this a damn adventure.
I didn’t think this was proper to write from the beginning. Tonight is the last night of the first leg of my journey. I’ve spent the last two weeks at Alpha Farm. An intentional community located in Deadwood, Oregon. Population 294. I’m currently sitting in the living room of a one hundred year old farmhouse. I’m tending to the fire as an Alpha member plays piano. I thought it was fitting that “When you wish upon a star” should play as I’m writing this. I don’t think I put enough wood in. Fixed. I confess, I was going to read a book but I found the music inspiring. That happens a lot here. From here on out I’ll probably post more often, but that wasn’t right here. In fact that is the complete antithesis of the vibe here.
It’s March 23rd, I know the publishing date says September 1st but it’s March 23rd. Most of the residents here have retired to their rooms. People sleep fairly early around here. It was one of the first things that I’ve become accustomed to since my arrival last Thursday night. I arrived shortly after dinner. Caroline, the last founder of Alpha Farm who remains here and another member, we’ll call him Bill, picked me up from the Eugene, Oregon airport. At fifty miles way it’s the nearest major city. My flight hadn’t come in on time and they were kind enough to wait for me.
On the plane I was in absolute awe looking down upon the mountains. I flew in during a storm so I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get to see Crater Lake from above. That disappointment quickly faded on the drive in. We were now “in” the mountains. Deadwood is in the coastal region so most of the locals refer to them as hills. Compared to these hills the ones I was accustomed to were children, babies. Tiny natural waterfalls poked out of trees covered in moss. There were shades of green that I had never seen outside before. I saw lamas that weren’t lamas (alpacas) and asked nonstop questions about the wildlife. I was so entranced by the scenes around me that it pained me to have to glance at my phone and converse with my mother who was texting me non-stop as I explained to her that my cellphone service would soon cut out.
We arrived at dinner time and I quickly said hello to everyone. It would take me a couple of days to learn everyone’s names. Though the number is everchanging there were ten permanent members, one extended visitor, and two short term visitors when I arrived. A short term visitor can be here for a couple of days to a couple of months. An extended visitor can remain for several months either living here temporarily or in the process of an internship to become an official resident. Dinner was brought out onto the table. It was curry, millet, and salad. A circle was formed around the table and I was a bit confused as everyone began to hold hands. Why are we holding hands? Are we doing grace? I didn’t think there was organized religion here. We held hands for several very long seconds and then my eyes widened as everyone began to kiss hands. Later that night I’d find a pamphlet in my room that explained the nightly ritual and how we kissed hands from left to right. Or right to left, I never did get it right. It was to show our appreciation for each other and to thank those who labored over our meal.
The hardest thing about traveling is not the struggle for food. It’s not wondering where you’re going to rest your head that night or if you’ll manage to get a shower that week. You don’t really need one that bad after all. The hardest thing about traveling is becoming comfortable.
It’s been five months since I arrived in Eugene, Oregon. My main concerns no longer have to do with getting robbed or assaulted. I have a knife. I mostly use it for spreading peanut butter and cutting bread. At this point I feel like I can handle anything short of death. And maybe even death itself. Because I’m living for the first time. My fears no longer stem from anything with hands or eyes. Complacency is my enemy. I must push myself forward.
I’m back in Eugene once more. I’ve made friends. Crashed on different couches. There’s a spot in the woods I often sleep in behind a closed down building in an industrial park. I know all the shortcuts to get around there. There’s not a lot of tweakers and I feel safe. Soon I might not have a penny. My back tooth is broken off. After three months of ignoring my dental needs it’s finally starting to hurt. But I’m not worried about any of that. What I’m worried about is that I like it here. I can see myself settling down here.
Earlier this year I spent a couple of weeks at an intentional community. It was peaceful. I was inspired there. I wrote more than I had in years. I started a short story. I stopped writing it, and much of anything else, when I was on the Vagabus. I was busy. I had a purpose. There were so many people around that I never checked my facebook or bothered to upload pictures to my then bare Instagram account. I had constant companionship. Sometimes to the point of claustrophobia. All in all it was positive.
Let me tell you about Steve. First off Steve is not a man. He’s a rooster. He was the first rooster I formally met and I’d soon find out that he was in fact a douchebag. Phil called him Cleveland. But he called all the chickens Cleveland. Even Cleveland, who thought she was a rooster.
I was forewarned of Steve’s ways but after several days of no incident I began to think it was an exaggeration and I let my guard down. For a week I checked for eggs while Cathy was out delivering mail for the post office. On one particular day I grabbed the basket from the pantry and set out to check the eggs lest the blue jays or the chickens themselves get to them. I crossed the dirt path to the coop with confidence. I knew I was going to find some eggs. And that’s when that motherfucker attacked me. From behind no less. Later I’d learn that roosters always attack from behind. Fucking pussies. Perplexed I grabbed a stick. I didn’t want to hurt him or cause injury to Alpha’s rooster so I waved the stick towards him. When he continued to attack me I hit him lightly. This also did not work. At that point it was clear he was persistent in his endeavors to hurt me so I quickly strode to the coop and stole every single egg.
That night I loudly exclaimed to the group that I had confirmed that Steve was in fact a dick. This led to quite a few chuckles and a late night conversation on rooster psychology. By waving a stick at him I had unknowingly challenged him for dominance. For the next couple days he waited for me. I’d find him outside of every door, staring at me. He made collecting eggs hell. Several people made suggestions. One member advised me to hit him with a broad shovel, just once, to show him who was boss. Again I was too timid. Again I was worried about hurting him.
On one of the last days of my stay with Alpha Farm we were out working for the garden and we were low on fertilizer. We had collected seaweed earlier that week but it needed time to dry out. With no hay to spread Dan had the idea to use the grass from the lawn. Excited to do something new I quickly took on the task of mowing the lawn. I was having so much fun that I didn’t see Steve across the lawn looking at me. With a smile on my face I revved up the motor, walked towards him, and watched him run away.
General and Solo Travel Advice for people on a frugal budget.