A Vacation in the United States
The Need to Travel
A few days ago I decided it was time to pick up and do a little travelling. The old feet were itching to move. The urge to roam was calling my name. Life would be better somewhere else.
What brought this on, of course, was the growl of Old Man Winter lurking just around the corner. The night air had taken on a definite chill in northern Canada. It was downright misery trying to sleep in my wigwam. And, according to the igloo contractors I'd hired a couple of weeks earlier, I wasn't about to get my winter igloo anytime soon. Global warming, they said, was melting the ice blocks as quickly as they could carve them out of the glacier wall.
Whereupon I succumbed to clinical depression. The diagnosis was pure speculation on my part, of course, because there was no clinic within a thousand hectares of my wigwam. I don't know how big a hectare is but I'm pretty sure a thousand of them is more than a country mile. Which made my diagnosis as good as any other within a country mile.
So, to cure myself of clinical depression, I decided to take a little jaunt south. The United States seemed to be a reasonable destination.
Crossing the Canada-US Border
Pretty soon I found myself at the Canada-US border. I won't pinpoint the exact location of the border station because I think the Department of Homeland Security might still be looking for me. There was a bit of a kerfluffle that sprang up while I was there and the DHS decided to blame me. I'm innocent, of course, but that's beside the point when the DHS has an opposing view.
I had been worrying about whether I'd get hassled at the border because I knew there was a little issue with my passport. The issue was that I didn't have one. So I'd been hanging around out in the parking lot hoping for a busy spell during which I might slip past the guardhouse unnoticed. My hope was fulfilled when a couple of long-haul truckers showed up and one of them was hauling hogs. One whole tractor-trailor load of hogs!
That was good news for me because hauling livestock across the Canada-US border is a messy process. You know, one or two of those hogs might have Mad Cow Disease or something. Such high-stakes security responsibilities definitely require the full attention of the border guards.
So, while I was waiting for the situation to reach its full potential, I wandered over to say hello to the hogs. I like hogs. Then, as I was petting the nose of one of the littler hogs, I accidentally bumped against the release pin for the trailor's rear gate. I swear to you, the bump was 100% pure accident!
Accident or not, the gate came crashing down. In no time at all there were hundreds of pigs running around the parking lot. And soon there were Homeland Security personnel running around the parking lot chasing pigs.
And at exactly that moment a local farmer in an open-top truck was waved through the station. Recognizing the opportunity, I sprinted to the truck and leaped over the canvas tailgate in a single bound. And just like that, I was headed down the highway, cocooned in a soft, spongy material that filled the back of the truck.
The malodorous characteristic of the material bothered me not at all. I fell asleep expressing my gratitude to Manitou because I didn't have to worry about water dripping from the roof of my igloo.
Moving By Truck
I don't recall how, but I next found myself in the company of a long-haired, belt-buckled, cowboy-booted trucker heading south. He didn't talk much. So I assumed responsibility for the long spaces that would otherwise have been silence.
I talked about my life in northern Canada. I told him about talking to trees, listening to the moon at night, communing with nature and other such spiritual experiences. But none of it much impressed my silent friend. That is until I mentioned the ganja crop I grew in the garden out back of my wigwam. Suddenly his interest in me became genuine and intense.
I told him I used ganja for spiritual purposes, to get closer to God. He said he always wanted to get close to God. I told him I used ganja for heath reasons, to ward off diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer, He said good health was high on his list of priorities.
It was like a miracle! It was as though a pipeline of communion had magically opened between us! The more we talked the more common ground we found!
Our communion flowed even more freely when it became known that I had a bag of ganja in my pocket, fresh out of my garden. We smoked and talked of spiritual things; we opined in great swaths on the meaning of life. We let fall away from us mundane matters like highway numbers. Direction seemed to mean so little when there were the great truths of life to ponder. It was a magical journey!
But then we ran out of ganja. And we found ourselves in the parking lot of some old diner with a flashing sign saying something about New York City. New York City? We'd been heading south...
I thought things might look a little better if we had a cup of coffee. I told my trucker friend so. He mumbled something unintelligible which I interpreted as agreement. I climbed down out of the truck and started across the parking lot toward the diner. Something told me to look back. The truck was pulling away...
Too Soon to Come Home
Still somewhat influenced by the ganja, I experienced no emotion at the loss of my trucker friend. In fact, I experienced no emotion about much of anything at all. With a vague recollection of having wanted to get something from the building in front of me, I shuffled the rest of the way to the diner and went in.
I sat at the counter and asked a short plump lady for a cup of coffee. (Coffee! Yeah, that's what I wanted to get from here!)
"That'll be a dollar, mister," the lady said, making no effort to be friendly.
I didn't see my coffee yet but I reached into my pocket for money as a show of good faith. Uh oh... no money! I searched all my pockets... still no money. A distant memory of placing my wallet on the truck dashboard crept into my mind...
By then, a big burly facsimile of Andre the Giant had come out of a back room. Without a word he grabbed me by the collar with one hand, opened the door with the other, and threw me ten feet across the parking lot.
I landed with a heavy "thud" followed by a "boing, boing boing." At first I thought my head had come off and was bouncing along beside my body. But when I opened my eyes, I saw that Mr. Giant had thrown an old guitar out behind me. I made a disconnected note that things must be okay for now: my head is still attached and I have a guitar. I didn't question the origin or ownership of the guitar. I just picked it up and limped off down the street.
So I'm making a life of it on the streets of New York right now. I play my old guitar and sing songs for folks which earns me enough scratch to get by. I'm beginning to catch on to how a certain style of song earns a particular type of compensation.
For instance, if I do a soft rendition of an old gospel number such as "Jesus Saves" I'll get a bunch of sermons, get my soul saved from Hell a few times, and at least twice a week get invited to some kind old saint's house for dinner.
Then maybe another day I'll do a couple verses of "Blowin' In The Wind" and pretty soon I'll have four or five old hippies gathered around singing along with me. Then the next thing you know one of them pulls out a bag of ganja and life takes on new meaning. Which means we spend the rest of the day sitting around talking about the good old days and ruminating on the purpose of human existence.
So I don't think I'll be going back to Canada for awhile yet. Between the saints and the old hippies, New York City is beginning to feel like home.