Friday, October 13, 2006

Bedroom on Wheels

Chill morning air. Lucky meeping from J's vehicle had me bolt upright at 4:00 am from my dreamy position on the mattress in back of the van. I finally located my pants after a maddening search and got over to her before she could filth J's SUV, which would not have been a pretty scenario. So far, her little space that is so tidy and organized has made this an enjoyable road experience.

I have arranged things so that with little effort I can put some things up on the roof of the van, in the spaces between the stack of six 6'X4' canvas stretcher frames that I have tied on to the roof, and thus the back of the van with it's mattress and comforter and down pillows becomes a very comfortable bedroom.

We are still at the Flying J here in Russelville. Five empty plastic cream containers by the brown coffee cup by the ketchup bottle by the salt shaker by the sugar holder by the dessert card makes an interesting modern still life. You rarely see modern still life's. Usually the same old grapes and flowers...I wonder why not? But I have no desire to paint such things, preferring instead to drip and throw paint and move it around and scratch words and faces, designs in it as it dries. In New Mexico we are thinking it will be the perfect painting climate. We are going to try doing it outdoors in a campground for a bit to save some money. We will buy a 10'X14' wall tent and use it as a studio to keep out of sight of the curious campers and woods cops.

Sales are percolating on ebay but the money is coming in at a trickle as people are taking their time to pay. Sokay though. We have enough for gas and food and as long as they keep buying we are doing fine. I am very excited to do some plein air landscapes with my drip style of New Mexico, with its enchanting light and strange blue distances. I have done some things like this and they were a success. One of a spruce shoreline and reflecting full moon that I called "O Canada", another of a setting sun on an ocean called "Melt" (see my website in the Mark's Artwork link- called "Mark's online store"). These both sold immediately...off for a smoke...

Outside the Flying J I smoked in the cold darkness. A big man and a small man leave. Heading to a car. The big man turns and comes up to me. He says hello after taking his jacket off and begins emptying the pockets. Before I can say anything he hands it to me. I am going to decline but he seems so happy to do it I take it and thank him. The small man is beside him now.

"This is Jose," he says gesturing to the small latino man, in his early 20's, smiling slightly, awkwardly."

"Hey man," I say with a nod.

So how old are you?" says the big guy.

"36,"I lie.

"And when did you start travelling like this?"

"Since I was 18."

"So it's become a way of life then, huh?"

"Yeah."

"Just travelling the country, waiting for that next ride."

"Yep."

"Where you heading then?"

"L.A." I say wondering if he is something other than just a really decent guy. It is hard to tell, but I think he is just a really decent guy.

A few more friendly interrogatory words from him and they are gone. I feel a little weird standing there with this coat, a brand new model that turns inside out, a windbreaker slicker on one side and cotton sweatshirt the other. Why did I accept it. I feel like a fool and a sociopath and look around nervously to make sure nobody has seen me. No one has it appears. Actually, I guess I took it out of habit from my distant hitchiking days, remembering how you did not question kindness when it presented itself, just gratefully accept...Also remember the paranoia of getting rides and nervously wondering if the telltale question would pop up. "So, do you have a girlfriend?" Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't. I became pretty good at reading people after awhile so could avoid the "Do you want a blowjob?" rides. But not always. It is funny now but the first time it happened I was completely freaked out and had the trucker let me off immediately and stood shaking with revulsion under an underpass.

All in all it is a hard way to travel since you always have to be on guard and you never really know who you are dealing with. Most often they are just really great people who have been in hard circumstances once or twice themselves but hitchhiking in America today is nothing like it was. I wonder how Jose will react if the man turns out to be a "Do you have a girlfriend?" ride and hope for the driver's sake that Jose does not have a hair trigger in this regard. I doubt he speaks much English though so he will probably just grin and nod and the big guy did not seem like the type to help himself...

So many good rides too. Like the guy in Tennessee who pulled off the highway after I asked him what real southern moonshine tasted like. We went to his trunk. He had six gallons of the stuff. He poured us some and we were on our way...

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