when, where, who.

25 August 2012 § 1 Comment

Where grief once lived, in the well-furnished, most accessible corner of my heart, a vacant hobo now resides. He sleeps on the couch, and murmurs prayers into my velvet pillow.

I used to go to that place often; I’d stand in the corner as if I’d been punished, and stare at the vertical line of light that remained even when the meeting walls were dark, a beam that stood fast in the face of my shadow. I felt like the answers to my wonders were chasing me, like they would follow me all the way to the eroding bluffs on the far side of the oceans, and stand still while I stormed and stamped my feet in feigned anger. I wanted my mistakes to be mine forever, my family photographs of opportunities I’d refused and relationships that I’d destroyed – the ones that everyone else might look at and say “well, what the fuck?” if they had any empathy at all. I’d prefer it if they didn’t.

I didn’t go one vacation for others though. Some people go to Hawaii or Scotland or Rome so they can slideshow for their friends and family until every moment of the trip has been altered by repetition, exaggeration, and want for approval and validation. And that’s fine – we all travel for different reasons.

My trips to that dense and sad place could be long forays, and I never brought my camera, or left a note to say that I was leaving, or when I might return. It didn’t cross my mind that disappearing would affect anyone – the prestige, when the rabbit is pulled from the hat, or when Houdini emerged free of his chains and locks, was my favorite part of my magic act, and the only one I wanted to play.

When I started needing a passport for these trips, the scenery started changing from my little corner’s beam of light to the corners of others, who decorated their darkness and built churches and bridges and roads into their mountainscapes. Their coffeeshops and used book stores smelled of musky smoke and old men yellow and brittle near the surface. Young women, my age and beautiful, strolls train station platforms with purpose, elegant hips moving this way and that. Their eyes all wandered, looking for signs which pointed them where they desired. I wanted to be near them, in their hearts, our passions collided – we, long distance trains crashing in remote areas of the world; Iceland, Nicaragua, Amsterdam.

Yet on my own journey I squandered what energy I had on running away from myself. Ever convinced that if I went far enough fast enough, the distractions would suffice to entertain me. I wouldn’t have to deal with all that broken, bruised hearts are made of – I mean, look at all the beauty in the world! And the beds of maidens induce warm and quiet comas…

Every traveler finds eventually that no matter where or who one leaves, the Self tags along persistent, a precocious child with the curiosity of an excitable puppy. We discover on overnight train trips in winter what patience is and how to use it, on the side of the road there are mirrors of Us in parallel universes, driving past our extended thumbs scowling on Christmas morning. When we steal books, it is for our highest purpose of learning more about how we entertain ourselves and shove back down what we’d really like to ignore.

When the books were finished and bottles empty, I began. Searching is not an aimless endeavor, even if we tossed the map out the window three towns back; it is listening when there are no sounds, paying attention to the pretty lights’ effect, and knowing what Is, despite the flattering angle. The search is making dire mistakes because, at first, dead ends seemed like lies, and we can’t always heed the posted signs. It is to follow every possibility to its end, regardless of a lacking hope. Sometimes we just see what is there, and turn around. Sometimes there’s a path through the woods that leads to a ghetto, or a palace. What would life be if we never pushed aside the branches?

With this in mind, I converged happily with Sacha and her Kiwi crew, Tyone the gypsy fisherman whose lifestyle I admire and question if I want for myself, outside the Portland house which has provided ample magic to this transient world in which I’ve found my tribe. Our Burning Man RV, with its 80’s futuristic curves and gentle excellence, purred in diesel what I’ve been wondering for some time: perhaps that place in my heart doesn’t need to be filled with grief, or be subject to my cycle of refilling it with sadness whenever love steps in again. I have a fortune to be grateful for, even if Heather’s the one buying the ice cream.

Burning Man, I’m not ready for you, but my heart is wide open. I just have to evict the hobo, and get someone who really knows how to pray to pay the rent.


collect the kindling for burning man

19 August 2012 § Leave a comment

The lower 48 is my new gypsy home. I’m more and more okay with that, satiated with the fresh memory of hitchhiking trips to Talkeetna, which was a weekend habit of mine a couple of years ago. When I left Alaska, I had been complete with Denali’s orange mountain and blue sky sunrise, intoxicated nights strewn across the river flats, and setting driftwood afire to 90’s songs sadly sung.  Now I’ve got a whole new paradigm to work with: it was time to leave home behind again, for smaller peaks and smaller valleys. To remain ever on an upward path. There are some loves even I cannot hold forever.

Burning Man commences in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert a week from today. Heather and I are in the chaos of preparation: attaching lights to ostentatious outfits and furry bicycles, shoving feathers where they’re likely not supposed to be, getting over head colds, and spending money on clothes that, in the default world, would be ludicrous to don. But this is Burning Man, one of the biggest, most audacious festivals and cultural experiments in the world. Flashy, colorful outfits and necklaces of LED lights are just the beginning.

The experience is based on tenets of radical self-reliance, acceptance, and participation. A gift economy creates a system of meaningful connection. In the desert, the days turn the ancient lake bed (the playa) into a veritable oven. The nights are cold enough for fur jackets and rainbow mini-skirts. 70 mph wind kicks up dust finer than baby-powder, and it finds its way into your everywhere. The Burn is about celebration, discovery, joyful giving, and explosions of the mind. This is the thing that even the poorest vagabonds drop their money on – it’s that good.

That’s what I hear, at least. This will be my first Burn. For eight years, the giant man and the temple have lain dormant in me, waiting to be tended to. This subculture of conscious, stylishly arrogant, sometimes-smelly people showed me a door. Like Morpheus in The Matrix (with more feathers and leopard-print), they held out pills in each hand, offered a variety of ignorance and vanity to accompany hard rhythm and rocked worlds.

I’ve taken the long route to learning for 26 years, and have absorbed the hard lessons by smashing my face into bricks and concrete over and over again. I have the chipped teeth to prove it. My conclusion? The scenic shortcut is nice sometimes. Life is so good right now it annoys me. I said that to my girlfriend, Heather. She appreciates life easier than I. “Why can’t it just be good?” she asks, frustrated as I am unchallenged.

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve scoffed at myself, and asked “What the fuck are you doing, Sean?”, then did it anyway? Months! That’s a record, or something.

One of those hard lessons has been to accept what is. To embrace it, love it, cherish it. And if I don’t like it, to change it. I’m deaf from my old stories’ repetition, allowing my past to inform my present, of being attached to ideas I thought at one point I could not live without, while watching those ideas (usually nouns) move on quite well without me. My heart is done, my body sick of it. My nose runs, and when I blow it, only one ear pops.

Fuck it. I’m going to superglue fake fur to a ten dollar bike, ride it through the darkest desert naked, and see what life is on the other side of the playa. And if that’s as bad an idea as hitchhiking across Europe in mid-winter, at least I’m not clinging to what might happen the moment I return.

How fitting that my introduction into festival culture has been as turbulent as it has been beautiful. Envision, a relatively small party in Costa Rica’s Pacific jungle, started me in March. Later, at Symbiosis, I reveled in the apocalyptic light of the solar eclipse as it cast a shadow from cloudless skies. Random Rab quieted his set, and nine thousand people stared at the sun in silence and awe.

A couple of months later at Beloved, an intimate Oregon tribal gathering, I left my intense fishing season behind. An intimate gathering in the Oregon woods, Beloved is the festival where conscious hippies, psychedelic art, and cheap pizza create magic. Naked men wrestled on a narrow bridge over the pond. I slacklined and played storyteller for our doctorly neighbors, who listened to my tale of misdirection and finding out what hearts are made of with utmost interest. What that dance floor held during Kalya Scintilla’s set was an energy of magnanimous sexuality, purity, and beauty.

In front of stage left, folks. That’s where we are, dancing, smiling, moving like we’ve never moved before, and never will again.

Burn, Man. Set everything I’ve been aflame, and we’ll walk out of the desert free again.

metal moving pasts

8 August 2012 § Leave a comment

Twelve hours until my next departure. The reset button has been pressed, the lever puller in me satiated. Californication seeps from the speakers into my stuff. Flea’s bass lines return from funky depths to say that I have too much. Three backpacks, a guitar bag, and a car that pleads for life daily.

All of my belongings are in a mess on the living room floor. Instead of packing, I’m removing one thing from the pile every five minutes. Whatever’s left this evening, I’ll take with me. Everything else, well.

But what of the books? And what of the music I spent hours condensing, deciding whether I’ll ever again listen to Bolt Thrower’s IVth Crusade, or Shape of Despair’s doom epic Illusion’s Play. And of the months (or years, in the case of Depresy’s A Grand Magnificence) I spent looking for such albums, through disheveled bins and shelves of mouse-hole music shops all over North America and Europe – what of those? Do I leave them all behind? Do I send them back out into the metal world for a younger version of me to glee over when he sees it for seven bucks in a pop shop whose owner has no idea what significance the creamy liquid guitar tone holds? Do I have to leave behind all of my Opeth shirts? Is that okay? Can my associations with this music evolve?

The troubles of Moving are great. I commit to them often, but usually on the premise that I can leave a box behind to return to, just in case. A packrat-turned-budget traveler, I have let go of entire hobbies to pawn shops, and given my aesthetic taste back to the Salvation Army on several occasions. There is something about metal music, however, that I didn’t detach myself from when I stopped listening to it. It might be the reason I still have the ankle-length leather trenchcoat I bought in high school with my first Arby’s paycheck (two hundred eighty-eight dollars and seventy-three cents), it might be the sensation of elitism that goes with having passionate, intimate knowledge of a subject that default culture generally doesn’t give a shit about (for religious fundamentalists may point out the Satanic elements in the music of Britney Spears as evidence of a deteriorating moral base in America, but overlook, for example, an entire genre of music calling for the eradication of all they believe in. This is not an umbrella statement for metal by any means, but you may get the idea). I don’t know what it is, but I like it.

Getting rid of metal albums is to shed adrenaline. It is to send away stimulation for feeling as if the world can be both hopeless and epic – at the same time. At times immature and stubborn, metal musicians are also activists of existence – their music reminds me that life can be as fatalist as it can be beautiful, comic, or extreme. And what better music to accompany one in the wilderness than that which was inspired by, written, and recorded in the Norwegian woods? The atmosphere emanating from Nattens Madrigal is heavy and spiritual, done by Ulver, a band whose creativity is unparalleled.

…and the disc changes. A burned CD with only a date on it, 27 January 2007, in her handwriting. The songs, some metal, others heavy arpeggios and overtures squeezed somewhere between Prokofiev and Stravinsky at a festival in England, reminisce those years with startling clarity. The drama of a certain third symphony lasted just about forever.

Some things are harder to let go of than others.

8 August 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest idea in testing the will of the people to do the right thing, from the most dedicated-to-his-purpose person I have ever known. I am honored to call Kokayi a friend, and to ride his wagon. I’m in. Are you?

It was a small act of grace.  The envelope was white. Business style. The generic kind that you buy at Wal-Mart. The handwriting used to address the envelope fulfilled a promise made by a grandfather, who messaged me over the internet.

As the Lead Coordinator of the By2015:AMERICA movement, I receive promises all the time. As a community activist, I have learned not to hold it against persons when they do not choose to maintain their word as bond. Consequently, I thanked the grandfather, but did not invest any more energy.

The grandfather was touched. Out of his limited income – a social security check – he sent a $5 bill. I turned the envelope over and looked at the date stamp. It read: May 19, 2012.

Anyone who interacts with me, learns that the left side of my brain is Minister Malcolm X and the right side is Bob…

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freshly 25 again.

8 August 2012 § Leave a comment

21 July 2012

Occasionally people ask me where I live. Most of the time, I point to the boat, my bunk, or wherever my backpack is and say, “there,” to which I receive either a confused or deeply understanding reaction.

I’d like to think that when I provide those answers I’m being sarcastic or in some way facetious, poking fun at my gypsy sense of homelessness. The problem is that the more I say those things, the more I believe them, and the less facetious they are.

I have nowhere in particular to go from here. This morning I purchased my ticket to Anchorage, using up the very last of my funds. I have one hundred and one dollars to my name, and am freer for it.

Standing next to the Dillingham airport, watching 32-seat planes carry deckhands home. I want so much to be in the air right now, on to the next form of transportation – liberated, hopefully with a check in my pocket that may dwindle to nothing before i’m ready to fish again.

My life could use a change. How or what is a mystery. Therein lies truth.

birthday poems. (queen cannery, 28 june)

3 August 2012 § Leave a comment

fires & abandonment.
we left them alone,
requested peace
with castaways, and
flung from autumn
former selves
that we delight in.


we’re skilled
at hiding,
pushing buttons,
owning fear,
asking for directions,
and why are you
not doing what you love?


contemplating furtive devotion
on the eve of a South Pacific holiday.

(a dyslexic father works
to tell his son he loves him.)


I’ve reason to reexplore my edges,
step consciously & sharpen them.
transitionmode is overwith.
my spirit is committed.

oh, alaska.

3 August 2012 § Leave a comment

Dear Love,

You’re such a bitch; fuck off.



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