The Road and Running Off

A place for hitchhikers and cab-drivers and sailors and people down on their luck the with bad ideas and the drive to make them happen.

I left home at 15 and spent a year traveling and sleeping wherever all around the county. If you want to read about some experiences from that year, go here.

People leave home for mostly the same reasons – they can’t stay there and remain safe, emotionally or physically, or they’re angrier than they are scared, or because they have an idea that somewhere else can be better. I left for a combination of these reasons.

I’ve written about the difference of the male and female road narratives, about the necessity for women to have a right to the experience that’s not solely about being knocked around by life, and if you want to read that, go here.

The dominant experience of being “on the road” is boredom and repetition mixed with shock and awe. 10-15 fascinating conversations where you learn about who people are by how they tell their own stories is exhilarating. 1000-1500 is fucking terrifying.

Bands are “on the road” when they do long enough tours that everything looks the same and yet every place and person is different and scary things happen occasionally – like guns and minor drug lords who want you to play a crucifixion in Bismarck – but it’s mostly strange sleep patterns and bad food.

Cab drivers are “on the road” because night after night they experience the repetition of stories, the defamiliarizing of time as people get in and out and take their personalities with them. 

I drove night cab for year. I was a terrible cab driver. I hate driving and like morning.

Tall ship sailors are “on the road,” not so much because they meet so many people so fast, but because the things they experience are extremely rare. The resilience and degree of skill it takes to survive and keep other safe at sea is invisible to all but their own. Long live the Jones Act! until there is something better. 

I spent a month on the USS Niagara as a sail trainee. This is code for whatever is below deck hand, a know-nothing grunt. My main job was to sweat lines, heave and ease-up, dig and hold, coil and hang, and stay the fuck out of the way. I failed at most of this. I was a terrible tall ship sailor.

I took this with my phone through binoculars as the ship sailed away.