There is something which changes the mind before traveling to a foreign land. As if in preparation, the mind renders the sight of daily routine into something naked & foreign. While driving the same roads in the evening, I hear each creak of the gas pedal as the body hims & haws across chipped pavement. I pull in the salty breeze and let it tickle my nose hairs. Copper sunshine pierces through a veil of stormy clouds. The hills of the Humboldt coast are like so many healing bruises with peaks of gold. Gusts from the ocean whip through me. Going to far on a one-way ticket, I wonder how long I’ll be gone for. Have I always been gone?
I look out onto the bay, following salty dock posts and depth markers stretching out to the breakwater. How many men have lived here, worked here, died here? Who inhabited this land before us and how did they live? Did they toil, live, and die like we do? What will the land look like after all the men have traveled away or died?
Will I be here again?
I have a job here. I have security. I have a bed to sleep in. If I stay and work a few years, I can make a lot of money and build a life for myself somewhere. I should think about my future. What if my health fails? How will I afford the hospital bills? What if my mother falls ill & I am to care for her; how will we survive?
We will survive the way all creatures do. We will eat when we are hungry. If there is no food we will forage, hunt, and fish. We will work gardens and raise hens. If the land is fallow and the hens are not laying we will dig through trash cans and dumpsters. We will attend Church dinners and wait in line at food banks. Onlookers will gaze down upon us but we will stand tall, knowing that all creatures are equal in death. We will eat silently with gratitude and we will share.
When we are tired, we will sleep. We will stir the coals and throw on a big log. We will make our beds. Whether they are beds made of feathers or beds made of cardboard, they are beds just the same.
Here in America, even the poorest of bums are rich on a world scale. We have nearly constant access to clean water. We have electric outlets and wifi in nearly every town. We have churches that hand out blankets and clothes.
Whether I have the finances or not, I will live how I live and I will die how I die. I will die like all things, which also live.
Here, “poverty-stricken” is a term meant to inflict damage upon a mans sense of pride. These things cannot harm the man who possesses strong will. The truly poverty-stricken are those unable to find food, warm clothes, or clean water. They may die as a result of their poverty.
What am I? I live under the table eating scraps. I collect enough to live & travel. I was dealt pocket Aces. Each time I capitalize on currency exchange by taking US dollars to foreign countries, I use my Aces against 2’s and 3’s.
It’s the game of men. Most men play by the rules or else find themselves alternately victorious and defeated by alienation. There’s that saying, “it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.” A chosen few live as true kings; above, beyond, & without the games of men.
This is our privilege and this is our curse. Playing the games of men has dangerous consequences. We can dimly fathom the interplay of cause and effect. Like ocean waves, we are subject to laws of rhythmic correspondence. The surface sings songs knowable, yet beyond the depths lies a darkness each man imagines yet few men can prove. To light this darkness & catch a glimpse of the all-pervasive pressure is to make friends with enemies & make sense from confusion.
A handful of cold sand between my toes, I piss with the wind and light no cigarettes.