walking in circles.

27 April 2012 § Leave a comment

I would love to say that Florida is a wonderful place. It’s not.

However, it is a good place to crash for a few days, to stay with friends, perhaps go to their wedding, and meet some of the people that help their world spin. Three times in three years I have used Miami as my landing pad – once in the first days of a broken long-term relationship, and twice returning Stateside from vagabonding abroad. In every case I’ve been broke and headed for Alaska. Now is no exception.

I rode the dog here for school – and a girl – eight years ago. It was a twenty-two hour bus trip from Albuquerque. I wore a leather trenchcoat, carried an electric guitar and pulled a rolling duffel bag without wheels. We hit Texas the first night. When I got off the bus, three poorly-dressed men tried to sell their shiny jewelry. Bracelets, all. Thinking of the dreamy female somewhere north of West Palm Beach, I made the mistake of asking how much. A fellow passenger, a mustachioed cowboy with a paunch that said he’d been off the ranch for too long, put his arm around my shoulder, told the men to fuck off, and led me away. I thanked him later, but didn’t say that I’d already given one of the men seventeen dollars for a bracelet. I feared he would have scolded me.

Many such lessons have taught me similar since. I’ve stopped handing my money out to strangers without souls.

In Louisiana, I started a ten-passenger debate on the historical merit of Christianity.  My most fervent opponents were the fat cowboy and a young man who’d two weeks earlier gone AWOL from the army. They were both on the run. Turned out the ranch hand was a truck driver instead. Before life on the road, he’d been a teaching priest at a Catholic school in Florida. I lost the argument on more than faulty logic. The army guy told me to read more books. Sometimes I still follow the advice.

The conversation turned to music. With men, it usually does. At the time, I was playing guitar upwards of six hours a day. (It frustrated me still that I wasn’t any good at it.) The cowboy-priest-trucker told me a story about one of his students, from years before.

The kid was a guitarist, about to graduate from parochial school. He also played hours and hours a day. He played so much, he skipped school and sleep to work on a riff or a scale. The priest asked the musician to perform for graduation. He gladly accepted, and nailed Hendrix’ ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ in the gymnasium, spot on.

The other teachers hated it. Threatened to keep him from graduating. They told him “evil rock music” was a negative influence on everyone.

Student felt terrible, said the priest, until the mentor went to his house and announced at the family dinner table how awesome the performance was.

The guitarist was Mark Tremonti, of Creed and later, Alter Bridge.

The more you travel, I theorized, the fewer degrees of separation between you and the people you want to come across.

At the time, it seemed important.

I arrived in Florida 21 October 2004. The next day, I wanted to leave.

Monday I depart.

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