what do you do in asheville, north carolina? we were hard-pressed for answers when we rolled off the interstate early one morning after a less-than-restful night sleeping in a field. we had little money, and what everyone regarded as the only hostel wanted $30 per head minimum. where would we sleep? we decided to drink some coffee...

this is sort of how i look before i drink coffee.
 ... and then we met some nice people on the street. we decided to stick with this town, not staying anywhere formally instead, we slept in the car and at least one storage shed (shhh). that left us free to spend what little money we had where our heart was: pizza.

in case you're wondering, barley's is about as good as it gets (and not too spendy either). we got pizza for $4 apiece that blew our minds into oblivion and back! but before that we saw this kid:

jonathan, a fellow traveller, showed us
his strange instrument of wonder!
everyone told us about asheville's beer, and how nice a town it was. when we told them we were from oregon, they insisted that all their friends said they would fit right in in portland. and indeed asheville is much like portland, with a few key differences.

key disparities between asheville and portland:
1. the houseless population is low and/or in hiding.
 2. even the hip folk say 'y'all.'
 3. our beer is better. we had a chance to test this:

if you do, for any reason, need to check for yourself whether "beer city, usa" lives up to its name, you need to check out a couple of brews that will render you sockless. (beer is about $3/ pint if you do it right folks)

3rd place fire escape pale ale (asheville pizza and brewing co.) --> has actual jalepenos in it!!! brilliant flavor, if a little light for my taste.
2nd place shiva ipa (asheville pizza and brewing co.) --> description insists "shiva will destroy all your preconceptions of ipa" well done! bitter has never tasted so entrancingly great!
1st place kashmir ipa (highland brewing company) --> rich and incredibly chill. this beer is the richest brew on asheville's side of the rockies (ninkasilove forever!).


we took blue ridge parkway out to skinnydip falls.
the biltmore estate is america's largest
house. don't ask how we got in...
the geese at biltmore estate.
also, we saw a bear (not pictured).

amber charms the geese with dolphin calls.


no goose in sight

we've seen the landfill rainbow
we've seen the junkyard of love
baby, it's no place for you and me

i could hear the silvery poetry dripping slowly off the lips of karin bergquist from just the other side of the trees. she slipped through line after line of anecdotal evidences of the "the holy ghost haunting" that is poetry, is travel, is life. it's her smooth and effortless tone that makes me feel as if she is mystical... or happy... or else always stoned.

there isn't much more beautiful than over the rhine, i thought from my perch atop the dumpster. i pulled another garbage bag off the truck and swung it into the mass of rotting rubbish below. surely this is the junkyard of love...

musician david crowder and his beard
on the mainstage at wild goose.
photo: susi sahlman
and in fact i heard snatches of two great acts while emptying trash cans and filling up the portable landfill just behind the trees form the main stage at wild goose festival. aaron weiss, who sings for the folk band mewithoutyou played a set at the open mic with joyful jam-band the collection. brilliant stuff, from what i gathered.

i actually caught the end of the over the rhine show with some friends. there i ran into aaron weiss, and got to tell him that i loved his music earlier. no big deal. wild goose is one of those places where the universe converges in very beneficial ways for eating and drinking and conversation, where the next person you meet might be a famous speaker or an up-and-coming author.

the wild goose festival, which organizers say was influenced by hits such as greenbelt, sxsw and burning man, seeks to unite the christian left (and a bit of the not-so-christian left) together in a healing and empowering yearly event. a dual focus on art and theology functions for festival-goers as little more than a pretext for hugs and dance parties... for sharing food and staying up late together... for beer and hymns, and then more beer (and then more hymns).

what is unique about wild goose is its safe and loving atmosphere; its a place committed to caring for those deeply hurt by the harsh environments that are shaping so many in their everyday lives. for once, they find a place of safety and freedom. for some, the goose is the only safe family they know.

for me, the goose is a reminder of who i am; it's an environment in which i don't have to pretend to be secure or confident just to be accepted and loved. and for that, i am grateful.

oh, and...
corvallis folk: check out the wild goose happening at benton county fairgrounds august 31-september 2.


off we go

wanna know something cool?

 i'm moving!

wutsthat? where am i moving?
... very good question...

 i was thinking about here:

or here:

... but in all likelihood, i'll end up here:

...this is what i did last summer:

p.s. try not to cry on your pasta
from the mixed -up files of hpbl+1/2


thinking about poverty

flickr: richard masoner
"it's the same thing, from the east coast to the west coast. from mexico to canada," he started. "i been all over... can't make it in one city, can't make it in no city," the old and grizzled houseless man, who identified himself as 'old school' was starting to get a role.

just then a couple walked by, carrying groceries and a case of beer. "you can't spare one o' them drinks for an old man?" old school pleaded, splitting his attention between me, the slouching kid reading nietzsche on the sidewalk and the beer-carriers. i took the opportunity to head off to a coffee shop, leaving behind my soft drink can, and taking with me my confusion, sympathy and mixed feelings for the houseless of this nation.

here we are in the age of slave morality. up is down, right is right and evil is the new good. nietzsche is mad 'cause 'love your neighbor' has made us less awesome--sympathetic instead of successful. he wants us to act in the world to our full capacities, not care for each other in sacrificial and empathetic relationships.

but what's the point of that? perhaps a bit unlike the dead german sociopath i'm reading, i still care a little for the small people in this world. but where to start? how do we navigate broken-ness and addiction? i don't know.

to a lonely and sickly addict on the street, money=drugs. i have tested this time and time again by offering to buy food for those who ask me to "spare change for a bite to eat." consistently, the food is either turned down or set aside amid more pleas for cash. it's a rough position to be in.

i've lived among houseless people for weeks on end on a couple of different occasions. most are on mutiple government assistance programs including social security, food stamps and welfare. in addition, at least in the northern states, churches offer food and other assistance. though i have encountered them, people using their spanging money for food are exceedingly rare.

little people in a big world
it seems to me that strategies for helping those in need work best when they are though of as a solution to a problem. following this line of reason, we would need to think about what the problem was before taking any action toward solution.

'old school' told me that his problem was that he didn't have enough money to get something to eat. later i watched him pull quite a bit of food out of the baby carriage he was pushing around while he chatted with me. while i listened, he told me about his life, and addressed a deeper (perhaps more honest) level of the problem: he couldn't get a job.

but i think its bigger than that. as i started to write this, through the window in the coffee shop across the street i watched the store manager chase off another beggar from the parking lot. he was screaming and waving his arms. she was calling the police. neither was listening to the other.

there's a lot of pressure living on the streets, especially for addicts. loneliness sets in as people start (generally with good reason) to infer that you're un-trustworthy. the drugs make you desperate, and gruff manners and a rough lifestyle can cut off your chances to get a shower and a good meal at times. people start to look down on you, if just because you smell bad.

so there are more problems than just a lack of food. in fact, in my experience oftentimes a houselss person will use the claim of a lack of food as a red herring, a departure from actual issues that is employed to shame the housed people they talk to into helping them with some drug money.

it's been obvious to me for quite some time that giving money to an addict is destructive rather than compassionate. however, there are a lot of more legitimate issues that houseless addicts often deal with:

- lack of work
- heartbreak from divorce
- ptsd (especially from the u.s.-vietnam war)
- loneliness
- class discrimination

so that's a start. i don't want to give up on this.

as ever,



freight-hoppers of the western world (offensive)

 i can't imagine what gave me the courage to jump. was it some sort of long-suppressed survival instinct? an athletic emergence from my neolithic ancestors? was it God?

"dear [G]od," i had prayed, in the manner of a cowardly supporting actor, "please help me [not die]." and then i had jumped--a downward leap from a sprinting train--and hurtled prehistorically and penitently toward the supporting cast of rocks below...

"you've got to land rolling." i've heard it a dozen times. i've been interviewing hobos and freight-hopping dirty kids since i got that job at the gas station, age 16. easy for you to say, you story-spinning travelmongers! but they're right! when you're hurtling off a fucking freight train, rolling on the landing can be quite important. 

other things to remember when interacting with a fucking freight train:

hold on. trains have a habit of jerking a lot when they get started and then settling into an easy rhythm. a little down the road, however, adjustments in speed between the engines have the potential to throw the casual freight-hopper off balance.

duck low. remember: most people aren't looking for you, but don't give a bored copper a chance to call the railroad authority on you. just be smart.

look out. some people are looking for you. you might learn to call these bulls [urban definition]. bulls and engineers have the responsibility to turn your ass in to the police. so hide it out during checks, and don't get caught with no escape plan.

that's not remotely what michael and i were thinking when we hopped our first train of the adventure. at a denver light rail stop, 11:30 pm, equipped with just our backpacks and my guitar, we stole onto an empty engine on a train bound for [G]od knows where.

"this is so great," i said. "i have extra money!" michael exclaimed.

twenty minutes later i was hopping back on our stationary train, arms full of a conspicuously shaped plastic bag. cracking into our first 40, we started talking philosophy and relationships, hitting the deck in genuine paranoia whenever another train would pass.


me (with tree)
it became clear that trains do, in fact, leave denver... just not this one. the talk shifted from 'oh shit, is that a light?' to 'should we go find another train?'

we decided to wait it out. i leaned my head out the window and yelled casually, "hurry it up, motherfuckers!" high on the dashboard, the radio crackled to life. the engines started. we looked at each other with simultaneous alarm and excitement. did they hear that? are we finally going somewhere?

we were. the bulls caught us scrambling to hide in the cabin of the freight train's rear engine. we bolted. 

back at the light rail station, we were starting again. trish was just getting off work when i stepped up and asked her for a spare cigarette (i swear i must have quit back in oregon). she was amused to hear that we had so recently failed so embarrassingly to hop a train. she stuck with us for a bit while we talked travel and asked her about her life. a couple stops up, michael left her his number and we were on our way. 

this time we hopped an old-school train car, which was only mostly full of scrap metal. 'we can't be detected down here,' was the premise. "you know..." i trailed off, michael turning toward me from his low-lying perch, his internal frame pack holing himup off the rusty scrap metal.

i continued: "we sure have a habit of hopping stationary trains." it was 1:30 am, and we were staring listlessly up at the denver moon.