My car, my kayak, my massive alcohol addiction. Well, it isn’t really my car. Technically, it’s my upper middle class raised boyfriend’s mom’s SUV, and the kayak was stolen before we left town. We took it from a business that treated my friend (their former employee) like shit. But the ice beer habit… I (we) did that to ourselves.
We did it together, both my sweeties and I, as we crossed one state after another, twenty-one so far, in an epic journey created out of this pandemic’s complete lack of timeframe. We had no plans besides stealing a kayak and delivering a van to a friend in Tennessee, and harbored just a few fantasies of whimsy: cooking over campfires with our bare feet on mountains, sunny days spent gliding across crystalline lakes.
We left less than a week into New Orleans’ shelter in place order, terrified of so much. Conditions were brewing that were far more frightening to the three of us than the virus itself. Mostly lack of food, housing, inebriants; state repression that never materialized; and more than anything our own friends’ unquestioning willingness to police themselves and each other.
To the tunes of Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris and an endless stream of folk punk artists we made it to Tennessee so long ago now it seems like a whole lifetime has passed. Enough time that we settled into a “new normal” as we crossed the country in a strange westward S shape, informed loosely by the often unsuccessful avoidance of cold rainy weather and whether or not there was anything or anyone to see.
Enough time passed that our lives became a seemingly endless family vacation done polyamorous crusty punk style. We had all the trappings of oogle life, living off of money made with cardboard signs, eating what food we could dumpster or shoplift, asking strangers for gas.
On the odd night I slept in Home Depot sheds, cuddling in a pile with my little Catahoula dog in someone’s sleeping bag between two of us. I spent so much time at Walmart that the “we care about our customers” message drove us crazy and straight to the aisle with the thirty racks. We drank them on the way to any woods that would get us away from these goddamn cities and shopping plazas, where the fantasy of “social distancing” breaks down the all the more obviously. Isolation becomes nothing more than mental.
Passing electronic highway signs urging us to stay home or limit travel (“necessary trips only,”) we collected them in a notebook for a while until after the third or fourth mountain range. By then they blurred into a visual drone, the words becoming part of this anthro-scene we want as little to do with as we can manage.
Somewhere between riverside hardwood-campfire cookouts in the Blue Ridge mountains, swimming under a waterfall in a Sonoran canyon surrounded by 20 foot saguaros, and having sex in a high Cascadian hot spring, I realized I’m having the time of my life.
My constant housing insecurity finally led me to having it better than most people- the masses, who have little more than dwindling resources, faltering workout routines, isolation and misery to fall back on.
Meanwhile, I soak in the near constant priceless and lucky moments, the joys of the road, of party boating, party tenting, unsuccessfully fishing, and spoiling the puppy.
A few weeks ago we started teaching one of my lovers how to stow away on freight trains. Honestly, this itself was a two week trip that was hellish and unpredictable: we spent just as much time miserable as having any kind of fun; we took wrong trains, got harassed by railroad special agents, slept through places we should have gotten off at, and did meth under a bridge in the rain in Wyoming, all in one stupid loop around a whole quarter of the country. Of course, they instantly fell in love with it so much so they’re doing it on their own now, probably better than I ever could.
Now that sweetie’s out there riding the rails, it’s just three of us including the dog, riding around in this borrowed car, spending stimulus checks in the Northwest, camping on mountain tops and raiding bourgeois food co-ops. After we rake in all the government money we can here in Washington we’re hoping to see the coast of Maine: I have just a few more places to mark off of the list.