Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 250 - July 8th

Selma, AL
On The Road is influencing me again. I caught a 20+ mile ride into town this morning. A woman and two kids slowed up in a truck and I hopped in the back. I ran out of food and I wasn’t going to reach a grocery store until the next day, at which point I’d be down to crummy granola bars and teabags, so the decision to go was already determined by my circumstances.

It was an exhilarating ride. The countryside whipped by and blurred everything to green as the fast-moving air tousled my hair. It was a glimpse into the rapidfire vision Kerouac received when he bused and hitched across America. I tried to channel a bit of his madness but all I succeeded in doing was getting my forehead sunburned. The driver pulled into a Winn Dixie. Her name was Felicia and she gave me 10 bucks! Such a nice lady!

Thing got real interesting in the produce section. As I was perusing the goods and admiring the nectarines, a man asked me where I’d come from.
“California, “I chirped cheerfully. “I’m walking to New York.”
The man gives his wife this knowing look and, smiling, turns back to me.
“Are you…native?” He spoke this word lightly, implying hidden significance.
“No, I’m half Chinese. I get that a lot though.”
“Well, we’re all from Asia.”
“Oh. You mean Africa.”
“No, I mean Asia, back when the continents were Panzania.”
I ignored our disagreements (pretty sure we’re from Africa) and instead honed in on what was developing into an intriguing conversation. Laughingly, I asked, “If we’re all native then why’d you ask if I was native?”
“I just wanted to see what you’d say. What’s your name? I’m David.”
“I’m Sam.”
“Is that short for Samuel?” he asked with that same pointed emphasis. Again he turned to his wife and gave her that knowing look as if he’d known it all along. Bemused at his reaction towards something that’s usually not difficult to deduce, I waited for more.
“Ah, a biblical name, Samuel. I could tell you were an angel.” Then he raised his hand in greeting. “Tah’ud.”
Shocked and amused, it seemed the only move available was to repeat “Tah’ud” and mirror his gesture.
“You feel it, don’t you, that sense of familiarity and brotherhood from meeting here in this moment. I can see it in your eyes, you know what I’m talking about. We’re natives, an affirmative nation. Affirmation. Af-firm-asian. African-Mexican-Asian.”
“What about the Jews?”
“Samuel, I can see from the color of your skin that you are able. In what way are we different from the albinos and the pale-skinned? What did the ancient Egyptians worship?”
“That’s right, the sun! See, you know!”
“Hang on, are you saying we’re natives because we don’t get sunburned?”
“Now, now, there’s more to it and you know that.”
“David, wait,” I asked, half-laughing. I was beginning to see how he associated anything with everything.  “How often do you do this, have conversations like this?”
“Everyday,” his wife chimed in.
“But it’s no accident we’ve met here in this moment. What time is it?”
“Hmm, yes.” He paused to think as if he were calculating change from a cash registe. “1 and 1, the two gates. And 24, the 12 kings of David times two for both of us. You’ll never forget this time.  And look where we’ve met, in the vegetables, Samuel, where it’s healthy and good and not in the alcohol section or the meat section. How long have you survived without meat, Samuel?         
“There are Nilla Wafers right behind you!” (As you can see I was having a little fun).

“David, what do you consider your profession to be?”
Solemn now, David spoke simply. “To correct. Hold up your right hand.”
I did so and David immediately launched into a prayer designed to bless me and he poked the palm of my hand with his forefinger while saying, “And now Samuel whenever you feel that urge you will have the power to resist. You will no longer be controlled by it.”
I busted up here. “Wait, are you talking about masturbation!” He was.

We went on like this for a while, our shopping abandoned. David believed he had access to the one true language which told the true nature of everything he read; did you know “cranberries” are pronounced “krohn-ba-ERRIS”?  He spoke in a revelatory manner as though he were privy to cosmic knowledge and would say things like, “I can see you are someone who doesn’t just accept the crowd-sourced wisdom of your peers but wants to explore for himself” or “You are trying to see the world differently than how it is conventionally seen.” I would find myself drawn in a little because I recognized something of my motivations in his words. But his flattery also tripped a wire and made me suspicious. I felt David was trying to demonstrate prophetic insight by saying things that are intended to sound to the listener like special knowledge of their specialness. Who wouldn’t like to hear that they are special?

Even though, in my from-the-hip opinion, David was deluded, he wasn’t diagnosable as crazy. He spoke lucidly and did nothing out of the ordinary except talk about odd subject matter. He saw significance in everything around him and connected it all together into one cosmic storyline in which he was a central player. Our tendency to make meaning for ourselves and our lives is a powerful motivation and here I found a man whose perception skewed to one extreme and saw a world in which everything means everything. How much of what we do for ourselves, weaving our stories and trying to craft coherency and meaning in our lives, is a dream we call reality? Does it matter if there is capital-T Truth underlining our time here?

As David and his wife strolled away, David turned back to me and said, “When you get to New York, tell them I’m ready Samuel. Tell them I passed your test.”
“Tell who what?”

“You’ll know when you get there.”

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