In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina(a super affluent area), I was sitting outside the public library having lunch, when a grey-haired woman in running spandex stopped to talk. She asked the usual questions about my bike tour, and then asked one I’d never heard before: “How are you doing physically?” I responded innocently, saying I was in great shape, eating mostly vegetarian, etc, and she gave a “Hm” and went into the library. Something about it struck me as odd, though, and it wasn’t until later that I realized what she undoubtedly meant by “How are you doing physically” – she wanted to know how sex-deprived I was! My mind was boggled for the next few days. What if I had responded with, “Well, I’m in good shape, but it’s been a while since I got laid” or “I’m horny and hungry”?!? Rich sugar momma? Maybe she has a husband with a boat that is going across the ocean. Hah! What a concept. She was like fifteen years older than my mother, but hey – she was in good shape, herself. I don’t think I’m quite that sex-deprived, and actually I’m alright with celibacy, but I am trying to stay open to “opportunity.” This journey is about trying new things, right?
The unfortunate citizens of Georgetown, SC, have to put up with a factory that spews out the rankest odor I’ve ever experienced on such a large scale. I politely asked the young ladies at the Kudzu bakery, “Do you guys know why it smells like that everywhere?” The response was a crude, pissed-off “You mean why does it stink so bad out there? It’s the damn paper mill. They say they filter everything, and the city won’t do anything about it.” “Oh… yikes. Is it like this all the time?” “Oh, no, not all the time – only when it’s downwind.” Only when it’s downwind!!?!?! Oh, you poor souls. Seriously, it was like little pieces of burnt sewage attaching themselves to my nostrils and throat. I wanted to vomit the whole time I was there – which was not long, believe me. I pedalled the hell out of there as soon as I finished at the library.
There is a lot to write about here, and I’ve decided to give you the whole story, because Charleston deserves it. It is one of the best places I have ever been. It’s also a great story.
I was outside a little roadside store North of town, having felt obligated to take the recommendation of some guy on the highway who’d given me a few bucks. I spent two of his seven donated bucks on sugar energy and corn carbs, and then a guy named Larry had some info for me. “I heard you asking inside about the trail. It’s just a motorbike trail, but there is a cycling trail about seven miles south; you can pick it up at the campground.” He also asked me if I was going to the Rainbow gathering in “Mancala” or something. “Where?” I asked. “Hiklalo,” he might’ve said… I’d never heard of it. /shrug
I found the trail he was talking about though – and of course the campground was too expensive, so…
I woke up in the woods, just out of sight of the Palmetto mountain-biking and hiking trail. It was a little chilly that early, but navigating the root and rock of the trail on my full-loaded rig was effort enough to warm me right up. My gear bounced and jumbled through the twists and turns, sounding like a tinker’s wagon. That morning was one of the most beautiful rides I’ve had yet; getting-fresher Southern greenery promising paradise ahead.
The trail only went so far though, and mid-morning I was back on Hwy 17. Traffic was a little rough, but I found a little American flag to fly out my traffic-side pannier, which I think helped keep me safe. Following the signs for bicycles crossing the bridge into downtown Charleston, I noticed a visitor’s center, which happened to be the first stop on my list. The ladies there were, as usual at a visitor’s center, exceedingly helpful. It’s their job, after all. Free maps in three scales, free candy, directions to the hostel in town and the college campus, and also to the crisis mission shelter just in case. One of them even made a call to a personal friend and came up with a phone number for a sailing industry guy who might be able to help me. Take it from me: visitor’s centers, visitor’s bureaus, chambers of commerce – whatever you call them – they rock. Take advantage man, take advantage.
At the top of the bridge I stopped to watch a fully-loaded Mearsk freighter tug it’s way out of port. “Harbor city… maybe I can find passage here…” But I was done with freighter ideas. I’d check out the marinas, find a yacht or sailboat.
I rode around with my maps, and eventually located the homeless shelter. I found my way inside after encountering a stained-bearded prejudiced crazy(“The shelter? It’s over there by all the niggers! Welcome to niggerville!” “Yeah, thanks for the directions you racist bastard!”), and the lady at the desk told me the drill: be back at 5 to wait in the first-come-first-serve line if I wanted a chance to be let in at 7:30; my gear could come in but not the bike, and in the morning I’d have to attend an orientation. It was only like 1:00, and there were already a bunch of guys hanging around outside, so I pretty much gave up on that idea right away…. Let those that truly need the service take advantage. Of course I feel broke and homeless, but really, I am much better off than the poor fellas I saw outside the crisis center.
Then I found my spot. I’m not sure how these things happen; how the Universe knows where to send me or how it directs my whims. It’s the type of thing I usually don’t understand, or even realize is happening, until much later. But the Charleston NotSo Hostel turned out to be exactly where I was meant to be.
I had to bother the manager, Victoria, at her personal house at the back of the courtyard, because the office was locked and no one was answering. She was in the middle of some paperwork, but she was alright with it, asking down from her balcony, “What can I do for you, John Deere?” I was wearing a farmer hat. I replied in kind, “I suppose I would love a tour of the place, clipboard.” She told me it was $21 per night(ouch!) but yes, it did include a shower and breakfast. During the tour I learned that it also included internet, telephone, movies and books until 10pm, coin laundry with no-charge eco-friendly detergent, and any unlabeled food I could find in the communal kitchen. As we walked and talked, past the bike rental fleet, fire pit, and balcony hammock, she told me that there was a guy that had been staying there that was leaving on a freighter for Europe that very night. “Whaa???” I desperately wanted to talk to this person, but he had already left. Apparently he paid over $1000 anyway; so whatever. Victoria was super-cool. She called his contact number (turned out to be his parents, who were, themselves, desperate for news of their son) and even found a cruise for me across the Atlantic, in March, for only $1600. Thanks anyway, Vicki – too rich for me right now; I’m standing here wondering if I can afford even just your hostel fees.
As the tour went on, though, that $21 gained in value until I agreed to stay. I paid her in advance and stashed my gear in one of the lockers, then took off on the light ride to explore the city for the afternoon.
I headed toward the College of Charleston campus – young educated people are generally interested and supportive of bike tours. Riding down Ashley Avenue the wrong way on the no-two-bricks-alike flagstone sidewalk that must be hundred of years old, I started following the stream of college students getting out of class. Eventually I asked some dude where a good coffee shop could be found. “Well, there’s a Starbucks around the corner…” /grimace “Oh! There’s Kudu Coffee just down Vanderhorst – Kudu is awesome, it’s an African cafe.” Purrrfect… “Thanks bro!”
And Kudu was awesome. There were gorgeous authentic decorations from Africa; it was full of open-minded young people, delicious fair-trade coffee, and even had a communal journal floating around, full of pricelessly unique pages. First I approached a girl who was sitting alone at her table in the courtyard, and sat and chatted. She had a meeting though, and when her other people showed up, I changed tables to the one with the dreadlocks. I had been eying that one anyway. “Hey guys… mind if I join you?” Brazenly putting myself out there, smiling and exuding all the compassion and humility I could muster. It worked out wonderfully; cosmically, even:
I met Amber Jade, a wise-smiled blonde who was later described to me as “the most beautiful girl in town,” her old friend from highschool, Jake, and another college student, Jason Bird, with the dreadlocks, whose name I later heard many times following the words “I love.” Amber Jade wrote my name in Hindi, and Jason wrote it on the other side in Arabic. We talked amiably; I tried my hardest to ask about them and their lives, and not just blab about my adventure, but they were really interested. Soon Jason had to go to class, but about thirty seconds after he left, he came back, just to give me a rose quartz crystal and a bag of carmel corn. Nice! Amber Jade wanted to know what I was doing tonight… of course I had no plans as yet. I agreed to find her at her apartment or at her workplace, to accompany her to a potluck dinner with some people she had gone to Kenya with. It is an understatement to say that I was smiling when I left to return to the hostel – I was beaming, flushed with the joy of success and enthusiastic faith in human beings.
At the hostel I settled in, made a list of what I needed to take care of (beer, quarters for laundry, shower…) then sat down to do some email. I overheard one of the other guests offering an herbal tincture to another, who had a miserable-sounding sniffly cold, and resolved to talk to that herbalist at some point. I had actually been on the verge of offering some of my own immune tonic that my sister Johanna made. Victoria wandered through, in the midst of training a new employee: Capers was her name, a bouncing energetic bundle of smiles and blonde dreadlocks, the type of girl that draws aimless, joyous laughter from your chest, just by being who she is. We talked for a bit after her training session, and she invited me to go for a snack at a Mexican joint. “Yeah, I’d love to go with you, but I’ll have to take off before long… I’ve been invited to a potluck.” Capers’ hips swiveled, and she excitedly asked me, “You met Amber Jade?!? I went to Kenya with her! I go to those potlucks every week!” Serendipity strikes; I let it electrify my spine and went with it, move move move!
Capers rides her bike everywhere. Do I have to go into how much I respect that? And she’s hard to keep up with! Ah, lovely, badass bike chics… how I love thee.
We locked up outside Juanita’s and went inside to meet Seth, a tall and lanky bearded bike dude and media student who was on his dishwashing shift; and Fritz, another employee at the NotSo Hostel, who was, in a word, Open. Free, warm, bright, loving, humble, and happy. My first hug in Charleston was from Fritz, and it was just so very fiercely full of joy and love. He’s and Ares. A fire sign, like me, with a spirit that cannot, could never be, extinguished.
I had a PBR as we munched on cheese quesadillas and tried to list all the things in this world that are A) free and B) wonderful. I of course had to add “public libraries” to the list. It’s a great list – you should check it out yourself some time.
Then we went to pick up Amber Jade and go to the potluck. Fritz hadn’t brought a bike(the hostel rental fleet was apparently in disrepair; hmmm…), and it had started to rain, so he took off his shoes and we walked with him until it started getting chilly. Then we ran the rest of the way! I was like, “We could run…” as a suggestion that I didn’t expect would be accepted; but they were all about it! In the cold rain, and Fritz in his bare feet…. “What wild-ranging hearts these two are,” I thought, as we bounded through the puddles.
Amber Jade fed us tea, and I watched Fritz suck on the tea bag when the tea was gone… whoo. That’s the way to get the most out of your super-food! Then we walked through the drizzle to the Kenya party. Everyone had gone and built a school for the children on a mission of philanthropy last year, and there was much discussion of continuing fund-raising, future missions, and a very admirably conscientious sharing of ideas. Not to mention Kenyan tea, provoking scent-memories of their incredible-sounding time there. And moonshine. There was moonshine too. Straight from the jar. And a hookah, grape flavored.
After a while, Fritz and Capers took me to a house show. It was one of those underground venues – who knows who actually pays rent there – where bands from all over come into town and throw down a set or two. BYOB, stage in the living room, dance floor wherever you happen to be standing. I took up a spot on the wall so my height wouldn’t piss anybody off. I danced, but not like Capers and Fritz – they walked in, greeted a ton of friends, and then just broke out totally foot-loose. No embarrassment, not a scrap of shyness, just hot exuberance and pure fun-lovin’. I watched in mixed amazement and admiration.
After the show I met Anthony. I had just witnessed him perform a guitar solo right after his guitar-strap broke… not an easy task, but he looked positively badass on one knee balancing his guitar and rippin’ it up for the finale. He was quietly impressive, red hair and beard, soft-spoken but loud-lyric-ed.
The night wound down, and after a midnight snack and some late-night conversation with Wally, a dready guitar player and fellow hostel guest, I found myself in a bed – the first bed I’d been in in over a month. Top bunk, baby. It was the first time I paid for lodging.
The next morning I woke up early enough to be there when they broke out the bagels and coffee, and sat in the kitchen, getting all the calories I could, and talking with all the hostellers that passed through. Most of them were in town working politics for McCain, Clinton, and Obama. Madeline was the herbalist, a fifty-something traveling woman out for the experiences. She said,”What an amazing family you have,” after a bit of conversation. Amity was another employee, working for her room, a tremendously sweet, highly religious person. Innocent. She had a sailing background, and wrote down some addresses for me to check out. I told her my “Thanks you racist bastard” story from the day before, and she was concerned: “I hope you didn’t actually use the B word…” Oh, yes I did. You may be right, Amity; perhaps profanity only makes things worse, but racist bastards really get me pissed off.
Victoria stopped through, and we took a walk. Away from the other guests, she agreed to let me stay a second night for free, in exchange for accompanying her to the bike shop to purchase a new bike for her personal use(a Fuji Absolute) and fixing up the rental bikes. She put the tube and tire, as well as a patch kit and quik-stik tire lever, on the hostel tab, and though the guys at the shop weren’t willing to let me borrow their truing stand, they did give me a free water bottle. “The Bike Shoppe.”
The unlabeled 26 x 1 1/4 tire had the right ISO, luckily, and I tuned the bikes up with plenty of day left. A Huffy, a crappy new Schwinn, and a real Schwinn. Tires, brakes, and bolts all proper; gears, bearings, and wheels as best as possible. Victoria stood by as I fixed one of the flat tires, and actually took notes on the flat-tire educational schpiel I’ve given a billion times at the bike shop back home. And she’s a triathlete!
I spent the rest of the day emailing and organizing, laundering and drying out my tent. Working on art, drinking coffee and beer. Relaxing.
Day three I hung out with Capers – I followed her on her 70’s Peugot road bike to the smoothie shop where her ultimate frisbee team, “The Hobos,” make up most of the staff. We had bike bottles full of fruity deliciousness, and I heard about some relationship drama. I also heard a story about one of their teammates who was running to catch a disc that Capers had thrown the week before, and ran headlong into the fence surrounding the old barnacle rock in the park – messed her face up real good, apparently. Ouch!
On to the college cafeteria place, where they charge you to get in and then you can eat as much as you want from any one(or two, or three) of the various kitchens. Capers and I were waiting outside for a big crowd to go in, so we could just slip past the old lady running the register, when a friend of hers offered to pay for us both – he had to get rid of his coupons or something. Cool man, thanks! Then grub-time was on. I had like three meals(pizza, burgers, stir-fry pork and rice, pizza, cereal, and sweet tea) while we sat with Steve, the subject of the aforementioned relationship drama. He wasn’t eating, just strumming the guitar that he carries everywhere. He and Fritz and Capers had all taken a bike trip to Atlanta a few weeks back… “These people are awesome!” After I was full, I filled my bag with oranges, and had the cooks at the health bar make me a grilled panini sandwich for later, with kettle chips. Ah, free food; nothin’ like it.
Next, we went to “the Cistern,” an stunningly gorgeous square in the heart of campus. Lush green grass, ancient oaks with hanging moss, historical architecture, sunshine and frisbee. I met some more people, was offered numerous places to crash, munched bananas and cherry tomatoes, saw Seth and Anthony again, and tossed the disc. I scored an exalting throw that was headed for the tree trunk, but ended up floating perfectly through the branches to the person on the other side. They had plans to do this tight-rope thing, where they stretch a line between any two trees with a ratchet fastener, and then try to balance-beam it.
Next it was on to Seth’s radio show on the campus station. It was mostly just hanging out in the studio listening to good music, but I did get to say a blurb about my bike tour. It was fun. Capers had to go, so I went with Seth to another dope coffee shop, the City Lights, and met some more people. I heard about this all-night music festival that was happening (it was Friday) and made plans to meet with Seth and Lauren at Juanita’s beforehand. Capers and Fritz, my closest new friends, were planning to go to a different all-night festival, some kind of dance marathon for charity. Not sure I could dance all night long, or that I’d even enjoy that, so I planned for the other show, at a place called Redux. Besides, Anthony had said he’d pay for my ticket – “You gotta see Ocho Kavu while you’re in town, man.”
Sipping french press at City Lights, after everyone had left, I created another collage flier to post at marinas and boating areas; half art, half resume. I think it may have been a bit too much art, not enough business. /shrug
At Juanita’s later, I happened to sit next to a retired guy and his secretary who were on a boat trip… unfortunately they were headed back North, not South to Miami. Good conversation nevertheless, and it was worth a free beer while I waited. Lauren finally showed up. Now, Lauren was something else. Young and beautiful, sure, but so confident. Her fake ID passed inspection every time, and the way she demonstrated her interest in me was… refreshing. Oh and she’s a Hobo… after a couple minutes sitting at the bar with her, conspiratorially sharing margaritas, I noticed a weird scar on her lip and chin… it couldn’t be the same Hobo… yep, it is. She’s the one that kissed the sharp rock in the park, going for Capers’ disc. It didn’t even look that grotesque, but I was attracted nonetheless. She also invited me to “attain roof status” with her some night soon, which is pretty much just climbing buildings to get to the roof(something I used to do with my boys back in highschool all the time) but sure sounds sexy when you put it that way. We had a blast, pre-partying until Seth showed up. Eventually we walked down to some house party, for some guy’s birthday. Lauren and I saved some money by sharing a cup: “She’s my date, can’t we just drink out of the same cup?” I said, and that was pretty much the tipping point I think – by the time we left the party to go to Redux, we were kissing in corners, exchanging whispered desires… placing seeds of anticipation.
Seth was wasted and headed home. We were wasted, and headed out! At Redux I told the door-tenders “I’m the guy on the world bike tour,” and they gave me a wristband straightaway. They were ready to let Lauren in for free too, but bless her honest soul, she paid ’em their $15. It was worth it, I’d say – hours and hours and hours of various musicians and bands of all types. Boy, did we dance! Not an all night marathon, but I think we definitely showed those wall flowers how it’s done. And there wasn’t even any booze!
After a few sweaty hours we took a break and I ate that panini from the cafeteria, gave the chips to Lauren… nothing has ever tasted so good, I swear. I was so happy to have remembered to bring food, and people were coming up to me asking, “What is that?” “Damn, that smells good!” I offered it up for bites but nobody took me up.
It must have been about 4:30 or so when we started contemplating leaving, or at least finding a corner to nap in. We decided to go back to Lauren’s and sleep for a bit, and make it back at 8 for the breakfast they were serving.
We went back to Lauren’s, and… slept. And we actually woke up in time for breakfast. Anthony had been there the entire night, with only a short cat-nap in the back. He described the spiritually invigorating gospel music that had woken him up; I was a bit regretful to have missed it, and the other pre-dawn music, but I was happy in my team with Lauren. Free breakfast, ah….
Super low on sleep, we all went to Kudu for a going-away meet-up for a girl named Kate that’s going to South America. Lauren, Anthony and I sat there, discussing the power of perspective and looking through the communal journal, until we realized no one was coming. Anthony made some calls, and we learned that the rain had moved the meeting to her house. We walked there in the early morning mist. She was the only one there – Seth and everyone had already left; still, we wished her well, and while she continued packing, we forced her to let us do her dishes, in order to practice the power of perspective we had been contemplating all morning. Anthony made sure there was music, and Kate put goofy hats and sunglasses on us while we scrubbed and rinsed and dried. I don’t think any of the three of us had even met her before. Such is the love and good will in Charleston.
Later that day, despite the freezing rain that had started driving down, and my severe lack of sleep, I decided to ride around the city, stopping at all the marinas. It was probably something like thirty-five miles all told, staying warm just by moving, and stopping every so often to take off my shoes and wring out my socks. After getting the majority of the (dirty-foot)water out of them, my feet were actually warm again! Wool is amazing stuff. I left some fliers and collected some advice. At the last place I went to, just before dark, the woman at the dockmaster’s office was actually expecting me! “Oh yeah I play frisbee with Capers – she told me about your adventure.” Another Hobo! She sweetly agreed to keep me in mind, and posted one of my fliers.
I did some lounging that weekend, catching up on sleep and relaxation while tons of crazy events were going on… “Man, these Charleston people are energetic!” Drank some wine, played some pictionary. Seth and I won in a heated race to the finish, in some cosmic sketching-interpretive mind-meld. I’m still not sure how we did it(“That’s supposed to be a frog prince?!?”), but he was happy because it was the first time he’d actually been able to even play the game since he got it. Then we all crashed in Seth’s room, three-to-a-bed, so we could get up together in the morning for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Every year, the College of Charleston organizes a community service event call the “MLK Challenge.” About a hundred students showed up this year, and one crazy bike tourist. They put you in random groups of ten or eleven(nine or ten new friends!), give you a faculty member with a van, $76.00, and six hours to complete a “mission.” Some examples this year included: painting murals on a bio-diesel bus to be used for a children’s ecological field trip, fixing and organizing the free-for-teachers school supply depot, and renovating “My Sister’s Place,” a home for battered women. My group(the Unity group) was given the task of creating a flower garden in the run-down schoolyard at James Simmons Elementary School.
The challenge began with soliciting supplies – $76 isn’t enough to simply buy everything we needed. We also had to find someone that could loan us shovels and gardening tools. We split up, and our driver dropped us off at various places – Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, etc. The guys who went to the local seed shop did score a few dozen bags of seeds, but other than that, it was I that had to show these kids how to walk into a place blindly and come out with something: persistence. I’ve been practicing this for a while now… “You’re not going to throw that timed-out piece of pizza in the garbage, are you?” “Isn’t there anything I can do to barter for a campsite? Just for tonight?” “I was wondering if I could just have these apples and this ear of corn… I’ll put you in my book!” Etcetera. Of course the guy at Lowe’s told me at first that he’d have to fax the form to corporate, and that it would take a week or more to receive a response. “C’mon pal, isn’t there something you could do at a store level…? You know, without contacting corporate? Anything at all, even just some scraps from the woodyard we can make a sign with.” Eventually he gave in, and I followed him around as he wracked his brain for things he could give away. Once he gave me that first piece of wood, it just kept getting better. “Here’s some paint; oh and a brush set… sandpaper? Sure, here’s a sanding block. Oh and why don’t you guys just pick out a tray of flowers too? Actually you can have two – take your pick.” It was for charity, after all.
We decided to spend most of our money at Lowe’s then, of course, and purchased a pair of shrubs and about 45 bags of dirt. Then it was back to the schoolyard to put it all together. We sank the wooden border into the ground and filled it with dirt. We wrote inspirational words all around the edge, and I painted a green and black sign that said “James Simmons Elemetary Martin Luther King Garden” which went right in the middle. The news channel showed up and interviewed a few of the volunteers. We buried seeds and planted flowers, and in the end had a real beautiful little garden! There was a disposable camera floating around and we got a great group photo, and then it was time to head back to the college.
But we still had $4 left… I suggested we give it away to a needy-looking person on our way back. “They did tell us not to come back with any money…” We finally found someone that was truly needy, and everyone pushed me out of the van with the money “You go, you go!”
So I went. “Excuse me sir, could you use some money? We’re on a mission of philanthropy…” Of course he said yes, and I smiled and turned back to the van… only to see everyone handing me more things to give him; candy and leftover lunch, bottled water, even a garbage bag to put it all in!
“Excuse me sir, could you use some candy?” He accepted it all with a smile and a thanks, but when we had given him everything we had, and some of the kids finally got out of the van to have a full-on Praise-Jesus prayer-circle with him, I think he started feeling overwhelmed. They came back to the van, laughing, passing around some hand sanitizer one of the girls had in her purse, and saying the poor old guy had pissed himself! Damn, I hadn’t hoped for that to happen… quit laughing! And who carries hand sanitizer in their purse, anyway?
Back at the college, there was a huge Martin Luther King Jr. observance vigil. There were two MLK speeches and a Coretta Scott King speech orated by some fiery philanthropists; heart-felt gospel singing; a moment of silence and glowstick-raising in honor of MLK; a civic-service award ceremony in which the recipient, in her “I-didn’t-do-it-alone” acceptance speech, mentioned only two people by name – Fritz and Capers! Those two, wow – they of course did the MLK Challenge, but couldn’t make it to the observance vigil because of other volunteer obligations. Finally, there were skits performed by each group to describe(in some creative and hilarious ways) what their mission had been and how they accomplished it. I was tickled to see that Seth’s group’s skit was finger-drawing and charades inspired – I think he was still digging the pictionary from the night before. At first I really didn’t want to sit through the whole observance, which lasted about 3 hours, but by the end I was glad I did.
Then I wanted to chill. I was leaving the next day, and I just wanted to chill with Capers and Fritz in their room at the hostel. Lauren had to work an MLK Day Wu-Tang Clan show at the club she works at, but I just wasn’t into it – even with the offer of a free ticket. I know, I know – what a missed opportunity. But last time I went to see Wu Tang, Method Man and ODB didn’t even show up, and what would I do with my backpack, etc, etc.
I went and spooned with Capers and Fritz(they love to spoon across the pair of beds pushed together in their room), and blew my harmonica along with Fritz’ guitar and Capers’ singing. Both very talented musicians. Fritz did a great cover of “Rocky Raccoon” by the Beatles that was stuck in my head for a week after I left. I told them the story of my MLK Challenge, and I had the pleasure of being the first person to tell them how they were honored during the award ceremony. They so deserve it. We munched on hummus and bread, and they gave me some CLIF bars that they hadn’t eaten on their bike trip. Eventually I had a “massage date” with Lauren after the show, and went to her place for a very relaxing last night in Charleston.
In the morning we rode to meet Capers, Fritz, and Victoria for breakfast. Lauren was on Seth’s Gary Fisher, and on the way I had to quick-fix the sticky front brake cable. Just a little barrel adjustment, and we were on our way again to an all-out, leaving-town, organic endless-coffee carb-loaded breakfast. I ordered a huge bowl of hempseed granola and yogurt with berries to share, and made sure no one’s plate had any food on it when we left. Everyone had school or business except Capers, who told me I had to see Hampton Park before I left – “There’s a tree you need to meet.” After a fierce hug from Fritz and a tender goodbye with Lauren, we were on our bikes again.
At the park Capers showed me the ancient grandaddy tree, the best tree in Charleston. It has branches so low to the ground that you can walk up them, and of course the deep-South hanging moss swaying in the humid heat. She showed me the best spot to sit in it, where your butt just slides right in and the branch is so wide you can take a nap. This tree was so regal and big, that there was a pool of water collected next to the trunk in the armpit of its strongest limbs – fresh water. I just had to take a sip while we were lounging, comfortably supported by this wise elder father. After a sumptuous heavy-lidded respite, I performed a feline-like dismount onto the grass below, and we biked back downtown so I could stop one last time at the public library. I said that last goodbye with a bit of German she’d taught me, a rosy kiss on the cheek, and a spirit-soaring hug, at once bitter and sweet.
I didn’t find a way across the ocean in Charleston. If indulging myself in collage art to make a transAtlantic flier constitutes an effort, and if riding all over town to every marina they’ve got in the pouring rain exemplifies my dedication, then I guess I did try to find a way across the ocean. That was my original plan for the city, but looking back now, I know my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was instead swept up in the energy of the place, from that exciting and promising first day; through its vibrant eddies and currents, full, overflowing even, gushing like the fountain of youth; all the way to the arbitrary jaw-set travel-urged ending. Moving on; it’s what I do. I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. I know you understand.