Happy Easter. Trumpet Calls. Jesus Chimes.
It’s a long drive from Vienna Virginia to our Easter habitation of Natick, Massachusetts. It had been a favorite show of mine the night before in Vienna. The crowd seemed to rise and fall with the same amount of energy that the boys and I were feeling from ontop the risers. From a soft whisper to a growling howl we carried our songs on our chests and sang through the night until the final song came and it was over. The time read 1:27 AM when we finally were leaving the club. I could feel myself slowly drifting into my bodies “off” position as we drove toward the house that we were to sleep at that night.
“Long drive tomorrow..” I sputtered to the others.
“Aye…” they responded with a tone that spoke volumes of their condition (exhausted).
In the morning it was a quick rise and out the door by 10am. The plan was to make it to the greater Boston area by 5pm, as we made it onto our first freeway the traffic was at a stand still. I was afraid that this could cause us to miss our 5pm mark and settled even further into the captain’s seat behind the driving, bearded, Timmy.
Sitting on the freeway opened up “the road” to a little bit of a different view to those we were sharing the experience with. I looked around and noticed the hundreds of different people in their respective cars/trucks/motorcycles, all racing to their locations, all in what they might or might not deem to be the “perfect vehicle.” The man driving next to us in the Volvo station wagon was dressed to the brim. 3 piece suit, a briefcase a top the passenger side leather seat, a neat, trimmed head of hair and a blue tooth that he seemed to be whispering into as we slowly eeked our way down the freeway. I sat there, looking at the man, wondering….
“Why a Volvo? Why a station wagon? Why the color black?”
Maybe he got a good deal on the car, or maybe it was a status thing. Maybe his parents were convinced that Volvo was the only “REAL” option when choosing a car. I had always been brought up under the “Toyota, Honda” umbrella of car thought. They were the best (in my opinion). But to be totally honest, I knew next to nothing about the cars or their parts, engines, functionality. But for some reason I knew that Toyota and Honda were the cars for me. They were cheap, well made, and lasted forever. My father was always a Toyota man. And for that reason I am sure that the notion of Toyotas superiority was a family heirloom that I was to carry down, whether consciously or non. The same thought and quick judgment of choice came to me as we passed many other vehicles.
2004 Ford Thunderbird.
1999 Dodge Grand Caravan.
2008 BMW 535.
All cars that I deemed to be “the wrong choice”. I couldn’t see myself ever buying or driving a Volkswagen ANYTHING, but I knew plenty of people that “LOVED THEM”. I then saw, on the right side of the road, a newer Toyota Camry with the hood popped and two men staring into its insides. As we passed them I told myself that it had to be user error, because Toyotas were “The Best” they didn’t just break down like that. And I think that’s what started to disturb me. Though I knew less than nothing about transmissions, timing belts, spark plugs or ANYTHING (for that matter) on cars and their insides I was a Toyota and Honda man, through and through. I find that my opinions on hundreds of things fall into this same semi-disgusting category. My thoughts, opinions and even facts (according to me at least) mostly fell under this umbrella of “wisdom”.
As I grew up my mind was a wandering sponge, picking up the “this’s and that’s” of my surrounding. My best friends dad when I was 11 loved the Raiders and so, in my mind, the Raiders were the best football team to have ever played the game. My sister listened to Bob Marley, and so, I, in turn listened to Bob Marley, thinking that it was one of the greatest compact discs to exist at the time (which in retrospect, it probably was). The winters in Nebraska were horrifically cold and the weatherman would always tell us of the “windshield factor”. He would announce over the boob tube:
“The high today is 17 degrees, the low is 2 degrees and the WIND SHIELD FACTOR is negative 12 degrees.” At least that is how I heard it.
Now, in my mind this made COMPLETE sense, seeing as how the wind would hit the windshield I had determined, in my mind, that this was the way in which they would determine the wind attributing to the winters air. Now, it wasn’t until I was 26 years old (this is no joke) that I read on a TV, while they were announcing the weather for the day, that the “WIND CHILL” factor was 7 degrees for the day. I sat there, flabbergasted, in awe of the many years of self-beguiling. Could it be? All those years? Windshield factor? HUH? I couldn’t help but sit there and laugh to myself. My Windshield factor was never anything at all but a misunderstanding, a miscommunication from one human to another.
I have recently learned of a man that throughout his (short) life had been told that there is great hippo in the sky who saw everything he did. This great hippo would dictate all the good that would happen in this man’s life and in the life of all that he knows and doesn’t know. The great hippo dances around in the sky and makes sure that things are running according to his mandates down below, where this man lives (planet Bearth). Now, this hippo is very particular on his choice of clothing and of the clothing of those that he watched over (the residents of Bearth) He would only wear yellow shirts and blue pants and would require the same of his residents below. This is something that this man is sure of. The hippo also only permits the residents of Bearth to go swimming in the great lake (Lake Ghumbo) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and if you went swimming on any other day you would surely suffer and die.
This man was raised with the greatest of parents who taught him all about the great Hippo and his yellow shirts, blue pants and regulations on swimming in Lake Ghumbo. His whole family including his brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles all were great believers in the Mighty Hippo and would sing his praises when all were joined together for certain special occasions, all equipped with yellow shirts and blue pants. All were happy and all was well with the world of Bearth. One day the man was walking through a forest near the house he was raised in and found a small book that told of a “Great Wind”, this Great Wind was the bearer of all of the trees, mountains, rocks, lakes, animals and people on planet Bearth. The book taught that this Great Wind was a respecter of all and none. It taught that Love was the key to the happiness of the people of Bearth and that without that Love that they would all surely die. The man read on to learn that a dress code of yellow shirts and blue pants was not really necessary at all and that swimming in the great lake of Ghumbo was fine on ANY DAY.
“What NEWS!” the man thought to himself.
The day was Wednesday and he decided to go swimming in the Great Lake Ghumbo. As he dove off of the dock the water ran past his body. He came up for air and to his surprise, he did NOT die. He felt alive and happy. He felt full of love. He then painted his yellow shirt red and sewed bright green and pink patches all over his blue pants, and again, he did not die.
“HOORAY!!!” the man screamed, running toward his home to tell all that were there of this great news. As the man told his sisters, brothers, parents, aunts and uncles of his recent discovery he was scolded and reminded that anything that was taught in contrary to the Great Hippo’s teachings was destructive and deadly.
“NO, NO!” the man replied.
“Surely something that makes me feel this way, this alive, this IN LOVE must be of good merit!”
The family again reminded him that he had lost “HIS WAY” and that there was only one way to make the Great Hippo happy and that was by wearing yellow shirts and blue pants AND by only swimming in the Great Lake Ghumbo on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The man again tried to help them all understand that he had learned of a slightly different way to be happy and that he felt compelled to follow in this path. Weeks passed on and the mans family slowly stopped confiding in him, and talking to him. He was a follower of the Great Wind and not the Great Hippo. The man was saddened by the distance that these two slightly different ways of life had brought between him and his family. He promised himself that no matter what his children and friends and family believed whether the Great Hippo or the Great Wind or the Great Nothing that he would LOVE them, that he would only let that great feeling of acceptance and understanding fill his soul.
I unfortunately have seen the case of Hippo vs. Wind many times in lives of those around me. Whether it’s Ford vs. Chevy. Toyota vs. Hyundai. Hippo vs. Wind. It’s all the same, my friends. It’s acceptance of different opinion. The cycle of hate/malice/darkness has to stop. The world is cold enough without the “Windshield” factor. As “hippie” as it might sound LOVE is what is truth. Acceptance of difference is OK. To think differently is OK. Find your “Great Wind”. Know that you are the ONLY one to be able to cause the happiness that will surround you.
“Adversity is the first path to truth” – Lord Byron
Truly we are all in this together.
-Joshua Fred James
Coffee Feet (Jackson, Mississippi)
After the Birmingham show we had high hopes of finding a place with a kind individual at the show. But, to no avail. Maybe we weren’t bold enough, maybe it was the dissheveled appearance of the boys and I. Maybe it was none of the above. Either way, there was no floor to sleep on, no couch to surf, no air mattress to support our tired frames. The weather in Birmingham was brisk at best and the weather seemed that it could turn at any point and give us a downfall of rain. We decided that we would head toward Atlanta and see how far we could make it. The time upon departure was 12:37pm. I was taking the wheel and dosed myself with a 20 oz. highly caffeinated coffee. I had driven a little over an hour when i could feel the covers of my eyes asking for a relief. I mentioned to the boys that we should look for a place to sleep before my body shut itself down and steered our ship into the revene. Evan searched for some parks off of the freeway but nothing had a covering under which we could take shelter. After driving around this very small town in between Bham and ATL we found a small daycare that had an awning that appeared to be sound and safe. It was off one of the main streets but there was a brick wall that might shield us from any onlookers that might pass us by during our visit to the God of Sleep. As we parked the van behind the daycare Tim expressed some concern of sleeping outside. The weather was windy and it seemed that a storm was on the brink of breaking. There was only enough room in the van for one to sleep and so it was given to Timmy. Ike, Evan and I grabbed our sleeping bags and pillows and set up our sleeping stations underneath the awning at the daycare. No more than 12 minutes after our setting up the winds started to howl a bit heavier and the thunder in the distance seemed to be approaching like a slightly disabled coyote in the desert hunting her last meal of the season. 30 minutes into our arrival and the storm fell upon us. The hounds of HELL had found there entertainment tonight and we were on the plate. The rain came. The wind. The screaming thunder, the constant lightning. And under the awning we stayed. We held fast to our small shelter and weathered the storm. The lighting, the rain, the thunder didn’t let up for hours. It was one of the most wicked storms I had ever encountered. And that night, underneath that awning with my best friends i smiled. I felt alive, free and happy. This was it. I was here, breathing, taking in the wonderful experience as the mortal creature that i am. How incredible it is to be alive and to be free.
The next morning we packed ourselves up and went to the van. Timmy looked up from his sleeping spot in the van to ask..
“Are you guys ok.?”
“I can’t believe that you guys slept in that storm!”
IT was a wicked night. A wild night. And we had weathered it. We took it on. The darkness of the night was a light in our SOULS. It was incredible.
Cheaha Forest, Alabama. Timmy & Evan.
We started toward Atlanta early that morning. I was behind the wheel. There were signs about 30 minutes into the drive for the Talladega Forest. Exit 199 said “Cheaha Forest”.
I yanked the wheel to the right and decided that today we would live in the forest, even if only for a spell. It was 12 miles in before we found the trail head. As we pulled into the parking lot i knew that THIS was what we would need to refill our need for the GREAT OUTDOORS. We started on the trail and it was magnificent. As the boys were walking behind i would jog ahead to be by myself. I didn’t want to hear anything. No music. No talking. No people. Nothing. It was the greatest of escapes. There i was, in the Cheaha Forest, walking amongst the mighty trees and shrubs of the earth. I felt alive. More so than i had in weeks. I howled into the woods. I communed with the mystic of the world. I laughed to myself in the nothingness and everythingness of my small and massive existence.
HERE I AM !!!
HERE I AM !!!
HERE I WILL BE.
From inside a moving box of four boys, traveling ferociously across a continent littered with shopping malls and Jesus Saves billboards i am writing this to you/me. The coast on my right with her majestic blue and overwhelming “vastness” causes me to stop writing/thinking everytime i glance over. The hardest of times are the best of times. These are the best of times. Our two week mark will be this Tuesday and we have dipped our feet in the river of the VAGABONDS, whilst gripping tightly to the side of a quickly degrading canoe. The big gray box that rolls us from one city to the next is showing her quickly fading colors as the tour unravels. A little less than a week ago the dearest of boys, Evan, ran from inside a Sinclair gas station to stop the hose of gasoline that was feeding our ever-carniverous/cancerous van. The gas tank was leaking.
We took it into a repair shop and they said that the only thing they could think of was that there were some rusted spots in the gas tank and that we would probably be ok to venture on. Now…this was almost a week ago. And it seems that the only time it leaks is when we are filling the tank. It doesn’t leak when driving/idling/sleeping/stopping/fighting/singing and so we are currently in a strange situation with the mistress of our future.
I am not one to be in the eye of immenent danger and lie in the middle of it. But the van is one of the many expenses of an extensive tour such as this and it is causing my heart to shrink from the anxiety it is giving me. I am about to lose my strength with her. But muster courage I MUST!
May the mighty mystical creature who watches over the road and its many travelers keep us tightly in her bosom.
The travels have been incredible thus far and we have met so many incredible people thus far. There have been too many stories to talk of them all. BUT…in Ventura, California we were asked by a very very kind woman with a colorful hat if we needed a place to sleep for the evening. And it just so happened that indeed, we did. We headed to Lucy’s house around midnight and upon arriving we apologized for our late arrival. She told us not to worry, for she was a “moon child” and the nighttime was her TIME. And so she led us back through an alley that led to her front door. We entered into a different dimension upon setting foot inside. The walls, the floor, the decorations were screaming of the intensity of life. Animal portraits, bright colors, strobe lights and in the middle of the living room, on the ceiling was a massive circle that appeared to have been painted on with sparkle paint. All the boys had taken notice of the circle and Lucy quickly mentioned that it was a Port Hole. I am not sure if that was a Portal or a “Port Hole”. She said it was a way to travel to the greatest of places in life, and that, to me, made sense. We quickly retired our tired bodies and were off in the morning.
Every morning, every evening lends itself to a unique position. I have troubles “letting go” and taking the moment as it arrives at my feet sometimes. But this tour/this time i will. I have no other options.
San Diego sunshine in my face and I am a happy critter.
Nothing left to say.
Whole Heartedly indebted in the existence of “it all”.
the critter of asphalt