Oh, Martha

My darling Martha,

I’ve entered the most wonderful territory, my darling Martha. They call it Colorado. The laws are quite novel and fascinating. A strange herb is sold just about everywhere and I did purchase a quantity as soon as I crossed the border. They call it cannabis. It has strange properties that can change perception and make one feel quite funny. It’s marvelous, my darling Martha.

I entered this Colorado Territory on my iron wagon when the sun was high, the air hot and the land desertous. This landscape is vast with sagebrush hills and buttes of red ochre. Brutal and violent if you lose your wits. Constant wind saps the strength from man and beast alike. I have spent some time in such a climate in my previous travels, my darling Martha, and I believe I know the basics of survival here. Do not fear for me. In my iron wagon I hold a large supply or water, beans, grain, oats, coffee and now this cannabis, which they also call marijuana. For it is legal here. The people of Colorado are lucky now to have this cannabis

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The desert is unforgiving, my darling Martha, but do not fear for me.

There is one thing, however, about this Colorado. The air turns to grey in the not-so-far distance in all directions. Before coming here I heard reports of wildfires to the south of Colorado, which certainly motivated me take the northern route, which is more remote and less populated. Smoke is also floating in from the burgeoning California Republic on with west coast, the people here say. It is possible that new wildfires could form here as it is like a tinder box, my darling. I can only hope these wildfires stay far from me.

Yet this Colorado is wonderful. As I crossed the border, I entered what they call a Welcome Center. A fine gentleman greets you at this Welcome Center and simply exists there in this small building to inform you of your whereabouts and the surrounding area as well as advice on where to pitch your tent for the evening. Why, my darling Martha, you’ll never believe what he told me.

This here is state land in the yellow, he said pointing to a map that he gave me free of charge, and that means it’s public land. Nearly all of the surrounding areas around these parts are state lands, the kind man said. I inquired about a suitable spot to lay my head and he recommended that I use one of two dirt tracks that branch from the main road in the public land, where camping is and all sorts of activity are permitted. I asked if I could venture there with my small iron wagon down these dirt tracks, for I do not have one of these larger wagons that can traverse nearly any terrain. He said he recommended this one here as he pointed so that is here I went.

I first drove to the lookout point with a public restroom, in which I did urinate, my darling Martha, and I saw from there the most spectacular views of vast crimson cliffs and sheets of rock down in the valley that seemed to have been formed by lava flows, for the texture was rippled. There were far off ranges yet, as I mentioned, the air is quite thick with this smoke from far off wildfires.

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The air is hazy, my darling Martha. Wildfires rage in the west, but fear not. I will come home to you.

It was time then to set up camp. I used my hatchet to drive my tent stakes deep into the hard-caked red dirt. Yes indeed, my darling Martha, it is a strong shelter. Do not fear for me.

Upon erection, I rolled some of this marijuana of the sativa variety in a cigarette paper, for they smoke this herb similar to the manner in which a cigarette is smoked, and upon smoking this marijuana cigarette, I began feeling quite different, as if my mind were programmed differently, my darling Martha. For I began to hear the silence of this Colorado desert, for there is not much wildlife here or loud insects or any noises at all. As I began smoking that marijuana cigarette, I became aware of the overwhelming silence of the desert.  I listened to the silence and took another drag of that marijuana cigarette, for it is legal here, and listened to the sizzle and burn of the cannabis. And then, again, silence. It makes one lethargic and content, I have found. Hungry as well.

I have purchased cannabis of the indica variety which they say acts as a relaxant and a sleep aide. I will try that one before I turn in this evening, and I hope to sleep much sounder than I had been in recent days in being in my apartment in the city.

It is good, my darling Martha, to be away from the city. The life of a newspaper reporter in that pioneer town takes its toll. The land is wild there and the people are still learning to govern themselves as society grows. It is much different from the established cities dotting the eastern coast, my darling, where you reside and where I am headed. There is much talk back there of personal freedom, yet here in Colorado there is cannabis in every town and vast tracks of public land and a Welcome Center open on this day, a Sunday, and there is a kind man there.

Now I will need to get some rest, for I plan on heading deeper into this land on the morrow and I wish to rise early to travel ahead of the heat. For it is hot and dry, my darling Martha, in this Colorado Territory.

 

All my love,

Walter

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Stupid

When I was learning to drive, my Dad would tell me that people are stupid. People are stupid, he would say, they might pull out or slow down or turn off. People are stupid and you shouldn’t trust them.

He was talking to me, a teenager, about how to drive, but I knew that he meant it about people in general. I thought people are stupid for a while and then I lived and traveled and met people from from the World and I thought maybe people aren’t stupid. I thought my Dad was wrong. He felt superior, maybe. And then I came back to my own country and I’m not so sure anymore.

I went shopping in a Walmart in Utah this morning and just looking at people I wondered about their lives, about what goes on in their heads. What do they think about when they pick out the milk and the meat and the sodas and the processed foods. What do they think about when they put on those clothes or put their hair up in that way or put that makeup on their eyes. I wondered why they would have so many children and why they all just stand in front of my cart until I say excuse me after 30 seconds, just waiting. I wonder if they know what it’s like to just be alone and think. Do they just live?

I wonder about people when I write stories for the newspaper and I read the comments from people in this isolated valley and I wonder why people think these things. I wonder how people can be so stupid. Why do they hate people who are different when their God tells them to love. They water their lawns in the desert and they drink sodas and eat meat and they farm dairy and they drive big, loud trucks and they have a boat, a trailer, a camper, a four-wheeler. They fly Confederate flags and pray.

All these things I am morally opposed to. The Hydrologist told me there isn’t going to be snow in Utah by 2080 if humans continue emitting carbon. That’s where the water comes from out west, from the snow up in the mountains. Like a bank. They won’t be able to keep their lawns green and they won’t have water to grow crops to feed their dairy cows. Why don’t they think about this. It will be 2080 in a few days. Why doesn’t anyone care?

They have lived here for generations, in this isolated valley, like their grandparents and parents and they always hear the same thing. Life here is one big tradition. But I am an outsider and I have been to the upside down. I have seen the Truth and I have seen what we are. We are wrong and we are killing ourselves and we consume consume consume without thinking. I don’t think they have seen that. They think their god tells them that everything is for them and they are the Israelites. Everybody thinks they are the Israelites. But there are no Israelites. Somebody just made it up to make you feel special.

I dropped acid with my sister at our cousin’s wedding with our whole family in the hotel, below, and I was compelled by the forces there to do yoga in the hotel room. I saw it. When I did yoga I was able to see it. Everything. I saw us. We are all in the twisting, shifting, malleable nether and we are all floating through, in, out, up, down, around. Across. We are moving in it. I saw everyone. I saw my Mom. She had so many dark hands and arms pulling her down. My brother was holding hands with his wife and they were floating on, in peace. That’s how I saw them. But my Mom, she had so many dark pulses around her. It was her Mother, her Sisters, telling her she is a coon ass. Her husband telling her who to be. Her children sucking the life out of her. They made her. We all made her. I understood, just then, that you can’t judge anyone for anything. We are all a product of moments, relationships, struggle. We didn’t live the life they lived. How would they know any better.

None of us are ourselves. We are a reflection, a mirror. I have lived for 27 years and six months and I am here, now, thinking these thoughts because of every insignificant decision and random event. I went to a therapist in Virginia when I returned from it all and she told me I should do what I want to do. Dance in the rain, she told me. Dance in the rain. If she didn’t tell me to dance I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t write for the newspaper and see the stupid comments or go to the Walmart in Utah and see the people. I don’t know why they wear those clothes or why they put that makeup on their eyes because I am not them. I wasn’t born where they were born. I didn’t grow up with parents and grandparents telling me to move the cattle, to get up early and milk the cows. I grew up with sidewalks and property taxes and well-funded schools. I grew up with a Dad who told me people are stupid.

But we change. We see things, experience things that change us. If I didn’t work on that dairy farm in New Zealand with Digger and steal the baby cows I wouldn’t be vegan. I would still be lost and ignorant. Before the farm, before I was me, I slammed the cabinets in the home where I grew up and my Stepmother kicked me out. So I went to the other side and saw everything and I would never have gone there or be here if I didn’t slam the cabinets. Maybe people aren’t stupid. Maybe they just never slammed the cabinets.

Illusions

I wish we didnt have so many screens. Or any screens. I think its making everyone depressed. Or maybe its just me. I want to go back to the forest. To sleep under the pines and feel the wind pass over my face. Now its all walls and ceilings. They are meant to keep us in. To separate civility from chaos. It makes us forget what we are. Be wary of the illusion. The ducks play in the water all day because they can.

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Under Construction

I’m struggling.

I left New Zealand 27 days ago and now I’m staying in the spare bedroom at my Mom’s house in Virginia.

I made a desk from two saw horses and a door I found in her garage and I’m reading through my journals. I thought I was going to be able to write something from all of this. I wanted to write a book or a series of short stories but this is hard. There is too much. I can’t process this. My brain is weak and I can’t get the big picture. I want to smoke weed to help guide me, but I need to pass a pre-employment drug screen so I can get a menial job because I’m in America.

I’m not even close to when the good stuff started. When I left the hostel and started traveling with the Irish girls and the California girl and the guy from Uruguay and the Kiwi busker we picked up. We would camp out and play music and get dirty and swim in the rivers and eat cous cous and vegetables. But I’m not there yet. Baby steps. Crawl before you can walk, right, Chris?

I’m sorry I haven’t updated my blog in a long time but I’m working on it, OK? This is going to take some time. The word document I wrote from my final month in New Zealand, when I was hitch hiking and camping and communing with nature, is 65 pages single-spaced. Most of it is word vomiting but with a bit of refinement, I believe that vomit can be turned into gold. But I’m not even close to cracking into that document. I’m at the point right now where I start to read my journals and take notes and find themes and I end up with even more hand written notes and that is just making even more work to do and then I have to stand up and walk around the house and look in the fridge even though I’m not hungry and then I go back to my “desk” and I can’t control the demon inside of me that opens up Facebook and the Reddit and then I check my e-mail but nothing has changed.

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I know what I need to do, what I need to write and what I need to focus on but I don’t want to say it until it is done. I feel the compulsion to read everything I’ve written in chronological order and not just jump to the good parts because I don’t know what I will have missed. And then my guitars distract me and then my Mom gets home from work.

Meanwhile, I’m broke and I need to get a job so I can buy a car and move somewhere new because I don’t want to stay here.

At first I was hesitant about Virginia. Then I watched the Washington Nationals play baseball. It’s like nothing has changed. F.P. still says, “And there goes the no-hitter” at the first hit and Bob still says, “SEE, YOU, LATER!” when we get a home run. I sat down and watched my first game in two years and I felt a sense of belonging and community with my hometown. The team has barely changed. Life goes on. I can be happy here for the summer but this is a means to an end. The Drifter in me needs to stay on the move.

Don’t fret, loyal readers, Stories From A Drifter is still running. The resident Drifter is just working out this whole life thing and trying to live while also trying to re-live the past and show people what I have experienced. I have changed. I am different than I was two years ago. Even one year ago. My year in Australia revolved around working. My year in New Zealand was about learning and growing and being a soul rebel, soul adventurer, soul capturer. I’m here. I’m working on it. I promise (eek!) something good will come. But I can’t say when.

Everything was so easy in New Zealand. I had my rucksack on my back and my guitar in my hand and all I had to do was stick out my thumb and after a few minutes or a few hours I would summon a car. Some kind soul would give me teleportation, conversation and positive vibrations and then I would end up at the next campsite, pitch my tent, eat my oats and breathe the air. Constant high speed Internet, cable television and hot showers didn’t distract life in New Zealand. Life was simple over there. I was a wild animal. We all are.

Ahh, it feels good to write.

One Democracy, Please

He talks in his Democratic National Committee voice as if he still writes press releases for the Governor of New York.

“Our Candidate…” he keeps repeating, referring to Hillary Clinton.

“What about Bernie?” I ask.

He scoffs. He says he doesn’t have a chance. Hillary has the money and the establishment support.

My Dad has worked in politics, public and private sector, for over 25 years. In November, he came to New Zealand to visit me. The sandflies are nipping at our ankles as we drink beer and wine at a campsite in Marahau after hiking a portion of Abel Tasman track.

“But the only thing that matter is who gets the most votes,” I say. “We live in a democracy. It doesn’t matter who has the most money.”

His experience tells him otherwise.

My idealism and optimism in young Americans gives me confidence.

Bernie doesn’t exist in his mind. Just as he doesn’t exist in the minds of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the 359 superdelegates, according to the AP, already pledged to Hillary.

A few days before the Iowa Caucus, Serena and I are taking a luxury day away from the free campsite — where you have to bring your own toilet paper — to shower and use power, Internet and the kitchen at the Queenstown Holiday Park.

I’m devouring the New York Times. I try to explain what it all means and how Iowa is the first state to hold a primary, but it’s not a primary it’s a caucus and it makes no sense and Iowa is not a representative sample of America so why does it matter anyway.

Trump leads the polls amongst the Republicans. Hillary is ahead of Bernie by just a few points. I pull up Real Clear Politics and see that Hillary’s lead has been shrinking over the past week.

She doesn’t understand.

“So Bernie and Hillary are in the same party?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say.

“Do they like…” she can’t find the words.

“Work together?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says.

“Not really. They have really different ideas,” I say.

She doesn’t understand.

She explains the party system In Ireland. If you vote for a politician you basically vote for their political party. She supports Sinn Fein, which just recently became a feasible political party and is overcoming its status as a terrorist group and IRA connections. It’s funny how the world is changing. With Justin Trudeau recently winning in Canada and Jeremy Corbyn winning in the UK

“Well there are only two political parties in America,” I say.

She is shocked.

As she should be. As we all should be.

New Zealand is where we met for the first time as equals. I am no longer the son who he kicked out of his house and he is no longer the father that I depend on. We are two free men talking and drinking and enjoying each other’s company.

“I like talking about this with you because I have ideas, but you have a lifetime of experience,” I say.

He tells me Obama lost all credibility in his first 18 months in office. He didn’t fight hard enough. Too many concessions to the Republicans who only had one word to say: No.

He says we need a new leader in the next few years. Obama destroyed the Democratic Party.

What he doesn’t understand is that the “new” leader we need is a 74-year-old socialist from Brooklyn.

Hillary says she will protect and continue Obama’s legacy.

Why?

What was Obama’s campaign all about? Change. Why would he want his predecessor to stop the change? I want us to go further. We can’t stay like this.

The United States of America is not a democracy.

When one is elected as President of the United States that should be taken as a referendum. Take the power and do something with it.

(President George W. Bush doesn’t count. He didn’t win the popular vote. And, wow, that brings me to another point. I have to distinguish which President Bush I am referring to. I don’t want to have to distinguish which President Clinton I am referring to. I don’t want dynasties in America. Two families shouldn’t be President for 24 plus years. Didn’t we, like, fight really hard to separate ourselves from Kings and Queens and ruling families?)

I don’t like the status quo. I want more change. Let’s keep going.

Why don’t we spend more money on education and health care than we do on “defense” which is code for pouring endless money into the wallets of private contractors who benefit from the military industrial complex? And I’m really tired of reading about drone strikes killing civilians.

I want money spent at home so Americans aren’t living in poverty. I don’t want money spent on the latest technology that kills people who have brown skin and live in deserts in the Middle East. Sorry, I mean protecting democracy around the world and keeping Americans safe. Silly me.

And it’s all in the name of fighting terrorism. Who is the terrorist in this scenario? The poor teenager who’s village was bombed and his family killed and then joins a group of “freedom fighters” who drive up in a pick-up truck and offer him a new life? Is he a terrorist? Or is the terrorist the most powerful country in the world that makes innocent people live in fear and if they die they are deemed enemy combatants because history is written by those who have power.

No more of this bullshit.

Hillary is a hawk. I want a dove. I want peace and prosperity for Americans.

Phew. Sorry about that. Where was I?

I can’t help thinking about the conversation I had with my father as I am hitting refresh on my laptop watching the Iowa Caucus results trickle in at the Queenstown Public Library.

Bernie didn’t win. Hillary has 49.9 percent to Bernie’s 49.6. Hillary didn’t win.

They both leave Iowa with the same number of delegates. Iowa is not a winner-takes-all state. What a strange system.

Now the establishment Democrats are scared. Even though it’s just Iowa, they see that Bernie has people power. The most important type of power in what is supposed to be a democracy.

I check Reddit and read about Iowans saying their precincts ran out of voter registration forms. New voters means Bernie wins. Young voters means Bernie wins.

From my years as a Political Science student, writing research papers and opinion columns for the school paper, reading news, watching news, working as a Congressional intern, a media watchdog intern, trade association intern, think tank communications temp, and working on the campaign of the Governor of Virginia, I’ve learned that enthusiasm determines elections.

Certain people — older, whiter, and more conservative — always vote. Other people — younger, darker, and more liberal — usually don’t vote.

Obama won his elections because young people and minorities were very enthusiastic about this intelligent and charismatic young black man who was running for President. He was different and exciting.

Right now in America, young people are excited about Bernie Sanders. They are excited because he has a lot of revolutionary ideas that will take America away from being owned by the moneyed interests and instead transform the country into a beautiful thing: A True Democracy.

That’s what socialism is. Democracy. It means people working together instead of competing against each other. In unchecked capitalism, there are winners — which we always hear about — but there are many more losers. We don’t talk about the losers.

How strange this must be to Australians who are required to vote or else face a fine.

The United States of America is not a democracy.

Republicans want to take us even further away from democracy. They call for voter ID laws and scream and yell baseless claims of voter fraud on their media outlets. And more furtively they disenfranchise voters via redistricting and gerrymandering.

Oh look. Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus. That doesn’t mean anything. He can’t win a general election. We have come too far. He wants to shut down the government. He wants to have a 10 percent flat tax rate and he wants to abolish the IRS and make everyone pay taxes on a postcard.

Wow, so simple!

Is it any surprise that people who don’t have a college education are more likely to support Ted Cruz? Of course uneducated people are going to vote for Ted Cruz. All they know is their own insulated existence and they don’t have the critical thinking abilities to filter out what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh spouts from their spitting, seething, hate filled lips.

When they hear a 10 percent flat tax rate they think they will save a few thousand dollars every year. But what they might not understand is that the top marginal tax rate used to be 94 percent in 1944 and then down to a comfortable 70 percent until 1981. After deductions the millionaires and billionaires would pay a much lower rate but that shows how much we have changed since Reagan began to deregulate and favor the rich.

If the super-rich pay a 10 percent tax rate, then United States of America would lose an incredible amount of revenue. We can’t just cut spending. America is people. Some people are poor. Some people can’t support themselves because the system is rigged.

I understand that a lot of people out there like Hillary and don’t appreciate this divisive Democratic Party that is similar to the debate between the Tea Party Republicans and Chamber of Commerce Republicans.

Yes, I read, An All-Caps Explosion of Feelings Regarding the Liberal Backlash Against Hillary Clinton, which several of my female Facebook friends have shared.

You say that Hillary has to be a part of the establishment because she’s a woman and she has no choice. I don’t care. This isn’t about Hillary. I don’t care about Hillary or your feelings, even if you are yelling.

I care about America. I care about the future of America and I know that Bernie Sanders has the ideas that will take us in the right direction.

I’m voting for the candidate who represents my beliefs. I don’t care how hard Hillary has worked to be here or how she has to act a certain way because she’s a woman. I agree with Bernie much, much more often than I agree with Hillary.

And I really don’t give a fuck about what the media and the establishment tells us is possible.

Let us decide what is possible. Let young people decide what is possible. Let the voters decide what is possible.

This is a democracy, right?