Joy In the Journey

Enjoy the Journey

Step II: Disappear - Part I

A large, brightly colored, number ten city bus grinds to a halt in front of the Xinjiang Arts Institute. The bus is full, packed to the brim but judging by the anxious crowd and the barrage of elbows, arms, and hands I take to the face and chest, it does not matter.

The hydraulic doors open with a hiss and the crowd rushes the door before outgoing passengers even have a chance to exit. I watch as a wordless battle ensues. Outgoing passengers slam into a wall of oncoming passengers creating an impenetrable bottle-neck.

Meanwhile, another number ten bus pulls into the stop. I quietly turn and leave the impatient mob to their dance.

I board the nearly empty bus and take my pick of the many seats available. Ahead of me I see the mob, still fighting for a spot on the fully loaded bus. The bus is so full that I can’t even see in the windows. People have, quite literally, been pressed into every crevice available and yet still more potential riders vie for a spot on-board. I sit comfortably in my own seat.

The driver of my bus impatiently lays on his horn. The low riding cattle-car in front begins to move with the doors still open and people still trying to board. Another honk. The driver closes the door but it won’t shut all the way due to the frantic, half-in, half-out passenger now hopping on one leg trying to keep speed with the bus. The driver stops once again, opens the door, yells something I can’t understand, and the would-be passenger shamefully begins his walk back to the bus stop.

My bus picks up speed much faster than the heavy-laden lowrider ahead. We move to overtake the bus and as we pass, the eyes of a hundred sweating Chinese meet mine. Instantly, they realize a mistake has been made. After cramming themselves into a slowly moving dutch oven, these riders now look on in envy as I and the few others around me ride in complete comfort.

We approach the next stop on our route. In the not so distant distance I see a strikingly familiar crowd. They catch sight of the buses and almost instantaneously and in unison they assume attack positions and begin to jostle amongst themselves. It quickly becomes evident that my bus is about to undergo the same bombardment as the one in front of it. 

Seeing the bus ahead of me is packed they shift and make a b-line to mine. The doors open and within seconds I am now sitting with stomaches, butts, and little kid faces within centimeters of my head. The temperature rises, personal space disappears, oxygen supplies are depleted, so much for a comfortable bus ride…

A year of situations much like this one and far too little time in nature had this “country boy” feeling quite overwhelmed by the time I set foot back on American soil. I was in need of wilderness. A burning desire, unquenched by city parks or patches of green had swept over me. I needed to go pee in the woods, start fires, and walk just for the sake of walking.

So naturally, I called up my partner in crime, Jon Abney. He and I have never passed up a chance to traipse through the woods since the third grade when we met. The planning began…

Hold on…

*Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, People’s Republic of China

Step I: Transportation

Those who know me know that I have never had very good luck with vehicles. My first car, a butt-ugly ‘95 Geo Prism, drank a quart of oil every two to three days and had its rear end badly mangled in a traffic brawl. Special features included a trailer hitch that towed a 12-foot lawn trailer and a trunk that would palpitate wildly over even the mildest of protrusions.

My next ride: a ‘01 Subaru Forester. Good car, built like an ox, but even an ox couldn’t have withstood a pickup truck to the gut. I have to take responsibility for directing that ox into the path of the cart. The Forester was destroyed and my left arm with it.

Then, after months of rehab and reacquiring my license, I started driving a ‘00 Volkswagen Passat Wagon. Beautiful car, but as so often is the case beauty only ran skin deep. There was an oil leak that dripped right onto the manifold sending plumes of putrid, gray smoke billowing through the AC vents. Needless to say, Florida summers were hell…literally.

Next came the ‘88 Ford F-150 - a dream ride for me. I loved that truck so much that I was willing to overlook the affair it was having with the gas pump. I suppressed the pain as long as possible, but when a young Buick LeSabre fell into my lap I couldn’t help but move on.

The Buick ran great until the AC went out and all four windows stopped working (among other handicaps). Then came a Nissan Altima that I don’t even like to talk about. All this to say, I was not looking forward to buying another car.

That’s when I found her. She was old, but she had character. Her figure a bit unkept from years of seclusion, but alluring just the same. After nearly 30 years she still retained every ounce of youthful radiance and I knew she would be mine.

I apologize for the creepy personification of a motorcycle, but you have to understand that, to me, it is much more than just a motor bike. That bike represents years of wishful thinking and unfulfilled ogling. I finally had the opportunity to make this nearly life-long dream a reality and at a price I could afford.

The rest is history. I pray that my 1983 Honda Nighthawk 650 does not become another player in my sob story of vehicular misfortune, but even if it does, (God forbid) I have a motorcycle and that is a dream come true.

For now - Jeremiah

Coming Home (to no place in particular)

July 7, 2012: Xinjiang, China

I packed

July 8, 2012: The Sky

I flew

July 9 , 2012: Chicago, Illinois 

I landed

July 10, 2012: South Charleston, Ohio

I slept

After a year of bi-lingual babbling, food-born illness, sleepless train travel, paradigm shifting, soul-searching, and one bitterly cold winter, I have returned from Western China. 

I am home, or rather once again living in the country of my birth. I currently have no home per se. I have gracious friends and family with homes in which to hang my hat and rest my head, but no home of my own as of yet. 

I used to dream of days like these. I used to crave this lifestyle of living out of backpacks and suitcases. I used to listen to folk songs by Woody Guthry, Johnny Cash, John Denver, living vicariously through the lyrics. Stories of men not shackled to the confines of convention, but liberated by lack of responsibility. No homes, no bills: simply surviving.

Now, I’m not so sure I was meant for rambling… Call it maturity, or perhaps insecurity, but I would gladly trade my backpack for a chest-of-drawers if given the chance. So, I have begun my quest for a place to call home and a job to pay for it. 

So begins my journey. I have decided to chronicle this rise (or fall) to adulthood for the sake of organization. The less I have floating around my head the more focus I can devote to personal growth. With the good Lord as my guide I will write my own folk song. The story of a man who rambles, but always has a place to call home.

For now- Jeremiah