One Man, One Van,
Many Plans


While getting things ready for this trip I pull out my video camera. I have one digital tape - it should hold a Cro-Mags show and a bad sound4sound show (when Gay Rey was our out-of-tune guitarist), or so I thought.
I put the tape in to see what I can erase, and I'm immediately floored by the pornography caught on here.
Woops! This is a tape of my ex and I, which was supposed to be destroyed. I destroyed the tape of my old band by mistake.
I run off to the store to buy 8mm digital video cassettes, but not before I watch several minutes of perversities.
Not to mention the huge bruise on my ass from jumping into a drum set.

When I return from this trip I'll call my ex to see what she wants me to do with this, but I'm not rude enough to take this with me and share.

I soon hit the road and drive eight hours west for Chattanooga, Tennessee.
I'm visiting one of my longest running penpals, Kiowa. I've visited her (and written of her) before in Nashville, but she's moved south since.
In the mid-1990s, Kiowa did the joke-feminist fanzine Slip It In, as well as a blog by the same name around 2002.
Her writing is strictly about sex, sex and more sex. That may be one of the reasons we get along so well.
She's the only girl who I feel comfortable writing about our sexual history, and that's probably because there's not a lot.
Plus, she's written about it plenty herself already.

Since then she's stopped writing and though I've encouraged her to, at least, start up a new blog, she's unenthusiastic about it.
I show her a profile of a girl I'm falling for, and she says she'd like to fall for someone as well, but that MySpace "is gay".
I agree, but twist her arm into making a profile for herself, with an underlying hope that she'll use her blog.

Thursday night was spent on the front porch of the house she rents in some massive ghetto.
Friends from all over stop by to meet me, and it almost becomes a party. I finally catch some sleep around 6am.
I wanted this to be just as much of a vacation, as a hectic road trip. I start a new job in the beginning of July, and
they're going to keep me on the road non-stop for months at a time. Now, with the lack of sleep I'm getting,
I can see these two weeks are pointing towards the hectic end of things.

I don't sleep much once I see sunlight, so I'm up around 8am the next morning. Kiowa sleeps until noon (or longer),
so I'm gonna go walk around the street. We didn't do much once she's up, except for chatting the day away.

Friday night was spent hanging at a bar called Images, which was holding a contest of female impersonators. Yep - drag queens.
While there are no flamers here that don't already look like what I'll normally find in Miami, I had a decent time of it.
I wanted a Divine look-a-like to show up so I could snap a picture, but everyone here was
Diana Ross, Liza, Madonna and the standard drag ilk.
While stumbling to Kiowa's house, I made her promise she'd get up early so we could go for a hike tomorrow.

Saturday morning her friend Michael arrives around 9am. I've met Mike the last time I came by this way - nice guy.
The three of us head to Signal Mountain.
Like a punk rock Moses, I lead us through Cumberland Trail into Signal Point National Park.
We hang out at Rainbow Lake for a while, but both of the folks I'm with are constantly bitching.
In her two years living in Chattanooga, Kiowa has never been to Signal Mountain, and that's because she isn't very outdoorsy.
"My shoes hurt!"
"There are flies everywhere."
"When do we stop walking?"
Wow, I can hardly imagine that these people were once gutter punks.
I opt to call it a day as the Sun sets, and we begin to head to Kiowa's.

-- the view from Signal Mountain --

We're all pooped and decide no late night adventures for us this evening.
I'm badly sunburned, yet peeling from a previous burn. The Sun takes everything out of me and I fall asleep quickly, as does K.

I awake Sunday morning to the usual: a quiet house where I'll be the only one awake for hours.
I go online and say "hi" to some friends, some of which I'll be seeing in the upcoming days.
I'm done writing emails within an hour, and it will still be about two hours before K is awake.
I hit the television thinking Sunday morning TV in Tennessee will be quite the challenge to watch,
but Kiowa has cable and I find a favorite movie on IFC.

L'Auberge Espagnole is on, and while I haven't seen it in about three years, I'm skeptical that I should see it again.
This movie kinda haunts me. It's an upbeat film mind you, but not so much for me.
It's centered around a young French stock analyst, who, for work-related reasons, goes to Spain to study Spanish economics.
He rents a room in a Barcelona flat filled with other youths from all over the world.
They all become close and bond, and after a year he returns to France, only to find he wants to throw away his job and become a writer.

Why does such a seemingly Euro-buddy film do this to me? Well, it reminds me of myself, and a life I never gave up.
In the early 1990s I went to The Netherlands for a near four months. I spent all my time there at the same youth hostel.
I made a lot of friends (writers and musicians), and even fell for a Swedish girl, Dunsvee.

By the way, I didn't smoke pot once while there.

Anyhow, I had already hitchhiked across the US several times by then, but when I returned home from that trip,
I realized more then, than at any other time, this was the life I wanted to live.
Basically, it's just that I didn't want to grow up… and I wanted to be a writer.

So here I am, in my late-30s, on another road trip, scribbling down my experiences for another mind to pick apart.

The flick ends, and I feel depressed. "Why?" I ask myself, "What the fuck is wrong with me?"
Nostalgia? Or just a feeling I'll never recapture the wonder of my youth?
"This is going to be a strange day," I think.
Oh, and it will be more than strange. It will be life threatening.

Before we go out, Kio and I fall into a conversation I wish I were better prepared for, as she wants to know why,
as sexual as I come off, I never hit on her - especially now since I'm single.

The terrible symptoms of Foot-in-Mouth Disease strike me hard.
I tell her I'm not very attracted to Asians, other than high Chinese or maybe Koreans. I go on to explain that,
while she is really cute, her dark Islander skin doesn't do all that much for me.

I once wrote that Kiowa was the shortest girl I knew, but I also wrote she was 4'6" of terror.
The word "terror" really comes to mind right now.
You'd think my foot going into my mouth so quickly would have hurt me enough, but she has a habit of punching me in the stomach.
Not only was I not prepared; she gives it to me full force in the gut.
I want to exclaim, "Fuck!' but the wind is knocked out of me.
"I'm American Indian, dumb ass!"

My mind races and I realize that Native Americans can also be a short, dark-skinned bunch.
When my mind starts to clear I realize her name wasn't Thai or Laosian, but a tribe name from the Oklahoma area.
Before I can catch my breath I'm excited by the fact that besides her giving me oral, I've never had sex with a Native American girl.

Sunday night we pass the time at a pub called The Local catching acts Iron Prophecy, Doomed Youth, Middle Class Trash and a few others.
In the middle of the show, we head out for dinner. The "terror" is back.
After we place our order and the waitress walks away, K picks up a steak knife and says,
"I should cut off your dick for thinking I'm Asian," and she slams the knife into the chair, right between my legs.

My blood runs cold throughout my body, as my eyes bulge out of my skull.
She laughs, until I squeal in a whisper, "You got me."
Now her eyes are as wide as can be, she pulls the knife out of the wooden chair, and apologies fly.
I've been stabbed before. Three times actually, but they've previously felt different.
This one stung, because it was a pinch, over a puncture. She got the inside of my left thigh.
Barely, but enough to bloody my pants and sting like a motherfucker.
She missed my personal collection of toys that thrill me by millimeters!
She's actually in tears, repeating that it was a joke. I joke back that jokes shouldn't include sharp objects.
She laughs, and playfully slaps my shoulder for not being serious enough about this.
I'm not being serious simply because other than the surprise, it isn't all the bad. It was just a close call, but it won't be the last.

After dinner, we head back to the show, and I spend most of the night with my hand
in between my legs to apply pressure and clot the skin together.

As we approach her house, I start to think this day is over, and it wasn't so bad.
Only it's not over yet.
When we pull up to her place at about 2am, and her neighbors are outside having an argument.
I'm not sure if I'm used to this or what, but I go inside without even giving it a second thought.
Kiowa is across the room in her kitchen looking at me,
while I sit on the couch about to pull my pants off to take a look at my wound, when a gun goes off.

People say that things like this happen so quickly, but I can't say the same. It was almost in slow motion,
as I can distinctly remember the sound of each and every reaction caused by this bullet.

The gun going off.
The sound of broken glass as a single bullet crashes through the window on my left.
The whizzing noise I hear as it passes by. Plus, the feeling of a quick breeze as it passed my forehead.
The thud the bullet made as it entered the wall to my right.

I hit the floor, and Kio runs at me, screaming my name.

I'm fine, but damn it, I just want some sleep!
The K's marijuana is hidden in the backyard as the cops have to come in to check on things.
There's a dead guy next door, and they want bullet trajectories.
They use a laser to point through the window and from a back bedroom see that I was two inches away from a frontal lobe lobotomy.
I think we fell asleep around 8am. I awoke around 11am. K wakes up around 3pm.

Monday was spent hanging out watching the tube.
Like the rest of my stay here, Kiowa passed me the bong a few times, only to have me shove it back at her.
I need to relax, especially after last night, but I have a drug test in two weeks, and I'm not blowing it.

Some of her friends got the low-down of what happened, and they swing by, as something resembling a party begins to build.
I try to get drunk, but the adrenaline is keeping me pretty sober. All I want is sleep.
Today is my last day in Chattanooga.

We're going to an all-day festival of anarcho-punk bands in Deluth, Georgia at The Venue. It was called
The Clampdown Tour which featuring L.A.'s The Scarred and Destruct, KTP from Kansas, Final Notice from Texas,
plus locals Vengance 77, Nothing Lost, Teenage Boys, and a long, long list of others.

I pass out flyers, stickers and free CDs, but some people recognize the name.
I get a few thanks, but also a bit of dirty looks.
I don't understand why Feast of Hate and Fear gets such a reputation for being a fascist or right-wing website.
I post equal items from anarchists and lefties, but no one seems to ever notice that. They get pissed because my website holds
pieces by Mussolini, Oswald Mosley, Julius Evola, and even the full version of The Turner Diaries.

Without much fanfare I say my goodbyes to Mike and Kiowa and leave them at the show.
It takes me nine hours to get to Richmond, Virginia. I arrive at 6 am to an already awake friend from Miami who up here for school, Terrince.
I call her Terri, and she's actually in Chester, VA, but it's close enough to Richmond to call it so, though I'm sure the locals would disagree.

I was supposed to leave Georgia a few hours earlier than I did, so Terri has been up since 3am waiting for me.
She goes back to bed, and I lay on the couch tossing and turning.
I thought I wanted sleep, but I'm restless.
Around 7am I get on the internet to say more "hellos" to friends, and warn others that I am approaching.

It's noon and we're off to Pocahontas State Park for some camping and hiking.
It looks like rain, but the weather folks say it should clear up by the evening.
I'm glad because, though I bought the van I'm traveling in to camp, I didn't notice the metal hitches in the middle of the floor,
so I'm expecting to throw my sleeping bag outside and sleep under stars.
We hiked a five mile trail around Beaver Lake, and after dinner went half way up a nine mile bridle trail, before we realized
we wouldn't make the nine miles back.

The night was calm and hardly a cloud in sight. The moon was waxing, and though not full, visibility was good.
There are other campers near us, and it sucks because when I do this, it's to get away from society, not be a part of it out in the woods.
The ground was soft where we pitched it for the night, so I actually slept well.

After breakfast, we started the day by going to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum and checking out
historic photographs of the building and area.
We attempted to join up with an event held by the State Park Junior Rangers, but no-go if you don't have kids.
We tried to act like we were married, and interested in one day placing
our children in the Jr. Rangers, but they still denied us entry.

Instead we managed another walk around Beaver Lake, but in the opposite direction.
I saw much more wildlife today, than yesterday.
As the sun went down, we jumped into the van and I headed back towards Chester.

I managed to get even more sunburned than I already am.

I spent that uneventful night at Terri's mom's house, very sober, and very happy.
One strange thing - I left my mobile phone at Terri's house. I turned the phone on to check for any contacts
only to find that someone has already read some text messages sent to me last night.
On top of that, Terrince's mom is giving me the stink-eye.

I'm doing a seven-hour trip to Ronkonkoma, NY early in the morning to visit
onetime Newsday columnist, and Dwarves fan Cassie J Sneider.
I'm going to be a day earlier than I said I would, but I feel uncomfortable here.
Terri's mom is giving me weird looks. I think she looked up my name and found my website or something.
Still, that's no reason to invade my privacy.

I tell Terrince I'll see her in Miami when I return there this winter, and I drive off at 7am.
I may stop in Baltimore and see what happens there, and then maybe head to Ronkonkoma.
Maybe I'll stop in NYC first before Long Island..

While driving through Washington DC I get a flat tire.
I waited two hours for a AAA truck to fix the puncture.

I arrive on the outskirts of NYC around noon, and text a new cyberfriend
that I'm miles away to see if she'd like it if I swung by for lunch.

We're meeting for the first time and I'm nervous.
I really like her. No, I mean really like her.
She's hot, she's smart, she's funny and she makes her own music.

I arrive in the city and after about 45 minutes of traffic on Canal Street I opt to park anywhere and walk it to her place.

She greets me downstairs and invites me up to her place.
She finishes up some work and we head out to lunch at a Japanese restaurant.
During lunch I get the feeling she isn't all that into me, and start to feel dejected.
We walk back to her place and I feel she's looking for a way out of this.
The conversation is flowing, but there's a nervousness there between us.
I'm starting to wonder about heading to Long Island even earlier.

We arrive back at her lower Manhattan apartment and she asks if I'd like to have a drink on the roof.
Something inside me begins to calm, and we head up with a six-pack in hand.

Normally, I'm good with conversation,
but I'm suddenly feeling more confident, and all of it starts to hit me way before the alcohol does.
Suddenly I see something in the way she's talking to me.
I start to think she is totally into me, and it turns out I'm right.

As the sun sets we begin a Friday night that, with no sleep, cancels out almost all of my plans for the rest of this trip.

I call Cassie and tell her I may be late, and probably won't be by until Monday, instead of our plan to meet up on Saturday.
I call Mark, and let him know things may be a little crazy.

Saturday morning is spent lounging on her couch, with brief walks through the city, hand in hand.
We later meet up with some of her friends and head to a bar in Brooklyn where her friend works at called Lucky 13 Saloon.
After a short while we decide to head back to her place for more time together.
We dine on Indian food and spend the night wrapped up in conversation and one another.

Mark arrives on Sunday and we decide to meet up for breakfast.
Her and I are vegetarians, while Mark is vegan, but in the city the choices are many.
As we eat, we talk about our plans to head into Asbury Park, New Jersey to catch Jello Biafra's new band, and a Bad Brains reunion.
It's to be the one night I get to hang out with a male friend on this entire trip, but we both invite her to come along and she accepts.
I couldn't be happier.

We then walk over to the one place I spend too much money at... Kim's Underground.
I enter and stroll up to their Krautrock section, and before I have a chance to look through any other CD bin I realize
I have to leave, as I see that the stack of discs I'm holding is going to cost me $100.
Cluster, Klaus Schulze, Bruce Haack, Popol Vuh, and a few more.
Even with what I'm holding I ask the guy behind the counter to look up a few more.
Damn, most are out of stock. Well, that's good on my pocket.

We decide not to drive to Jersey, but to take the train. Bad idea, but we won't know that for some time.
We get to the park where the concert is held after walking a half hour northeast from the train station.
Jello Biafra's new project already played and I'm bummed I missed it.
While Mark stays behind, her and I walk over to the Jersey shore, and stroll the boardwalk until Bad Brains come on.

My foot makes its way into my mouth again, but luckily, I'm with someone quite understanding.
I dare not mention the stupidity that came out of my mouth, but I'll be wonderfully proven wrong in the next few days.

We rush back as I get a call from Mark that the Brains are up next.
We get center stage, but a ways back, so as not to get trampled by those that want to slam dance.
While still finding it a decent expression of rage, it's lost much of its meaning for me, so I don't go onto the dancefloor much any more.

Bad Brains take the stage and about midway into song two I realize that I am so over reunions and half-ass
attempts at resparking the flame of glory days. The guitars are weak, HR's voice was unenthusiastic, and
of course, being nearly 50 he wasn't doing his usual back flips and such.
Plus, I can't stand white girls dancing to reggae.
It's like white boys acting gansta: a bad co-op of a culture that doesn't belong to you.
Don't get me wrong, I like reggae, I just don't act like a stoned Rasta when I hear it.

While heading back to the train at 11pm for a two-hour ride back into NYC, Mark and her begin a nonstop trade of strange tales
of gimps, tards and race relations that I refuse to take part of because I know I'll say some fucked-up shit.
I'm tired of my mouth getting away with some of the insanity it says, so I stay mostly quiet for much of it.

Monday morning I call Cassie to again cancel our plans and let her know I'll be in town until possibly Thursday.
My girl and I are to go have a beach day and possibly camp out at Fire Island.
After a while of conversation and long makeout sessions we realize it's too late and the plan changes to go to Allentown, PA instead.
I'm to met her mom and spend a few nights there, as her apartment is getting to be so hot it's uncomfortable for the both of us.

Tuesday we go out for breakfast, with her mother and hit a few thrift stores.
I find a 1956 third edition print of Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl.
It's the true life tale of an ocean voyage by archeologist and anthropologist Heyerdahl on a wooden raft from the coast of Peru, 4300 nautical miles to Tahiti in 100 days. He did it, not only to prove to the world that the ancients traveled long distance by watercraft, but to try to convince modern science to rethink their theories on our African origins and instead place the dawn of civilization in South America.
Graham Hancock's views on Tihuanacu have been highly influence by this one expedition.

In a lonely corner of a far-back room in one of the thrift stores we stopped off at, there stood an antique scythe.
My eyes widened as I walked over to it. I wanted this thing so badly.
No. I needed this thing. Badly!
I walked to the counter and asked for the price.
$40
$40? It's mine!
She says she will pay for it as a gift to me.
Ha - tell me you're not falling in love with this girl either.

We head out to lunch at a bookstore café, and later pass by an old abandoned steel mill, Beth Steel in Bethlehem, PA.
We decide to return tomorrow, jump the fence and inspect the place.

-- My own private industrial wasteland --

Upon our return the next day, we scale the fence and proceed to worm our way through mazes of empty warehouses, dusty offices and soot covered work spaces where the shovels and welding masks still lie in place, as if one day the workers had to suddenly run out of the place to save their skins. We climbing rafters, train cars, and rusty stairs while collecting pieces of metal, odd light bulbs, and even pressure gauge readings of the day the plant shut down.
I am high as fuck.
Not on any illegal substance, but on neurochemicals.
I haven't done this with a girl I liked since my early twenties, when breaking into the Biltmore Hotel to see if the ghost stories were real,
or sneaking through the Homestead trainyard to hop a car going to Colorado just to stencil graffiti throughout the Midwest.

I'm not just having a good time.
I'm in love!

Later that evening I pose for pictures with my scythe.

-- The Not-So-Grim Reaper --

The next day we decide to head back in Bethlehem, not for more trespassing, but for Indian food and some record shopping. While on the way back to her mom's house we decide to go back to NYC so we could spend our last night together alone.

Here's where everything comes to a quite end.
She cooked me a curry dinner, and later made me rice pudding.
We entwined for hours afterwards - softy and passionately, sensually and sadistically.

The next morning we did much of the same, and though a bit somber, we held high hopes for a future together.
She walked me to my vehicle and we said our goodbyes, hardly breaking eye contact
until I turned the corner and we were out of each other's sight.

The ride home was uneventful, except for a semitruck's tire blowing out to where the neighborhood thought it was a bomb,
witnessing a hilarious accident involving a guy trying to read meeting the highway's median wall,
and a line at a New Jersey gas station that made me think there was a gas ration.

37 miles from home I called to tell her I miss her, and how much every moment I spent with her was worth
more than I could possibly ever karmically afford.

I take off again in two days for Phoenix.
I have a two-day orientation, then I jump into a truck to train for two months, after which
I hit the road on my own for a minimum of two years.

I'll miss her every second, but the future I envision seems bright...
so long as she sings to me from the other end.

 

 

 

A. Souto, 2007