Monday, October 30, 2006

paycheck in hand, i was glad to get away from atlanta and back out into the country, this time hitchhiking a country road up through northwest alabama up to the farm- this is spelled with capital t, capital f, but i'm not using those in this treatise. my interest in communities and communes was stirred up by the sunflower family, and i'd wanted to go see the place anyway- but, at the same time, i was getting into the groove of being alone, being out there, being a free agent. i began traveling lighter, shedding baggage, no longer feeling like i needed a shelter all the time, or for days at a time, or even at all. there was talk in alabama about some truckers burning tires further up the road, a labor movement of some kind; it was cold, it occurred to me that i was miles from my natural element. but i was loving it, and people were really nice to me. there was a certain cultural gap in talking, but i was bridging it; i'd had some practice.

up at the farm they were very seriously into right living, soybean farming, settling down, doing the right thing. it was impressive- to live in a community a person had to do what was best for the group, live by agreements, work hard and not get a whole lot in return sometimes- i was attracted by the stability of it all. inside, though, i was blowing them off- i wasn't ready for this. i didn't hang around long- i did some work, saw the place, and, they were gracious hosts, so i told them i appreciated that- and i got back on the road, this time going south.

the route down to new orleans passed through the natchez trace, the whole state of mississippi, practically. this was very exotic, even in january- lots of plants i'd never seen, red clay soil, a strong kind of accent in the people. again, everyone was very friendly, rural, helpful. i was arriving in new orleans a little early for mardi gras- too early. there was talk of a policeman's strike, and the best thing i could have done would have been to hide my pack in some hostel and done my walking around without it. as it happened two policemen pounced on me in lake ponchartrain park...told me there was going to be a revolution all right, but it was going to be the policemen who ran it, and they were going to clean the world of people like me, especially given my northern accent, that last bit being implied and not stated directly. seemed my first mistake was to open my mouth with these policemen- they were questioning me about some table knife that i used to spread peanut butter, and i was maintaining stubbornly that that's all i used it for. i seem to remember that they dragged me into the station on some charge, giving me the policemen-will-get theirs-someday lecture on the way over, though i don't remember paying anything, and i had to get a bus ticket out of there because the exit to the highway was right there at the police station. so i bought a one-way ticket to baton rouge, the nearest possible place, but got out there and continued west. no sense waiting for mardi gras under those conditions. but i wasn't really mad about the south- it had been good to me, in spite of everything. people had been friendly. maybe it was just that my license, my main id, still had new york on it, maybe that was a bad thing. the policemen had been a bit rude, to be sure, in both cities, but it could have been worse. my experience in atlanta had been a bit spooky, but that too, could have turned out worse- and, i'd had a pretty good time there, exploring the underground, walking around, getting to the airport and back. but spring was coming- you could sense it, on the roadsides and bayous, it was in the air, and i was just getting started. the wide state of texas stretched out in front of me, and the sun was coming 'round to shining.


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