When I was starting out, my travel bag held a blanket, a hammock, various lengths and diameters of climbing rope, a banjo, a Navy Pea Coat, a big knife, a little knife, a bible, a journal, thread and needle, and a Speedy Stitcher, scraps of food, and a half dozen books: Hesse, Steinbeck, Keasy, Brautigan, and Bonhoeffer.
At seventeen, I was as strong as an ox and the load felt light.
The longing to see, to feel, to experience the world at close range outweighed any sense of weariness, hunger, or aloneliness.
I had no long term goals or destinations. My only plan each day was to let as much pleasure and joy into my day as possible.
I’d wake each morning, untie my hammock from the previous night’s anchors, stuff my blanket and accoutrement into my bag, and head out into the morning sunshine to find coffee.
God showed me a route across the country that was ideally suited for me and all the lessons I needed to become a man.
Without fail, every day was full of adventure, interesting sights, gorgeous vistas, and best of all, almost every day led me to interesting people.
Some were beautiful, some ugly, and some plain.
But each person I encountered working, hitch-hiking, or playing music had an effect on me that made the years of sojourn rich and fulfilling.
I refer to those years on the road as my “college years”.
I had the good fortune of coming under the influence of remarkable people from East to West.
They taught me how to live, to love, to work and play, and best of all, how to survive by my wits alone.
Forty five years later, the contents of my bag has been pared down to a few credit cards, a roll of hundred dollar bills, a stack of batteries for my phone, my bluetooth keyboard and mouse which allow me to write wherever I am, and Aspirin and Ibuprofen to manage the pain of years of repeated overuse and abuse of my meatbag.
I carry a toothbrush and toothpaste to save what’s left of my teeth, and sunglasses to rest my eyes.
The rest stays the same.
I meet remarkable people, see beautiful vista’s, and visit with a handful of friends, pouring fuel into our hearts to keep alive the love we’ve shared over the years.
I walk the rooms of the greatest museums in the county, the grandest avenues, and most majestic neighborhoods.
I smell the rotting food and piss in the alleys and watch the river roll by as I sail down the rails from the warm hearth provided by the generosity of my dear ones.
I stuff myself into a folding chair and observe the incredible talent of an offspring unit, sip espresso in a cafe in Morningside Heights and
...watch, listen, and learn.
I hope to continue this pattern going forward, but if it all ends this afternoon, I will stand at the Gates and report that I have lived a remarkably satisfying and rich life, shared adventure with the best of men and the finest of women.
I have missed out on nothing.
I have loved and been loved, I have lived out my dreams, experiencing beauty profound, and joy complete.