What It’s Like to Be Home

Today I woke up in a bed that I will sleep in again tonight. I did not have to unpack my life from a tattered backpack. I don’t need to set up a tent, or wait for it to dry, or pack up a dirty, soggy glob of material back into the bottom of my bag. I will not have to meticulously repack any of my things in the morning. I just place them, here or there, where they go. And when my clothes are dirty, I may change them. And when those are also dirty, I may wash them.

When I want to pee or shit or brush my teeth, I go to the room at the end of the hall. I don’t have to ask anyone if it’s okay that I go in there. If I want to, I can even take a shower in there. The shower has a shower curtain and there is soap. The toilet has a seat and there is toilet paper. I can even use the soap at the sink after I use the toilet. And I don’t have to double check with someone about the soap or the toothpaste or a towel. No one is banging on the door wondering when I’ll get out. No one is telling me, “Sorry, but company policy is customers only.”

In the kitchen there is a refrigerator. Sometimes I have more food than I can eat all at once, so I put it in the refrigerator and I can eat it later. There aren’t any bugs on it. It doesn’t spill onto my clothing. Because my clothing is not in the refrigerator. Clothing now lives in a different space than food. And the food doesn’t go sour in the hot sun.

It’s hot here in Georgia. Not unlike the summers we’ve spent the past couple years chasing around. There is a fan, right there on the ceiling, and I can turn that fan on by simply flicking a switch or pulling a string. It comes with a light. And they’re all attached right up there to the roof which doesn’t leak at all so when it rains I’m dry.

When I’m thirsty I can go to the sink and get water. I don’t have to boil it or pour iodine in it or wait for a pill to dissolve in it or swish a UV light around for 10 minutes inside of it. I don’t have to go somewhere and buy it in a big plastic jug. I don’t have to beg anyone to spare some from their jugs. I can just walk right over to the faucet and turn it on and out comes this wet stuff that I can drink. And then I’m not thirsty. I can do that whenever I want. I don’t even have to be in this house with the fans and the toilet seats and the refrigerator. I can go to other houses and they all have this same quality water in their faucets too.

If I want to use the internet I can. And if my computer needs to be plugged in, there is a plug. These things work all hours of the day and are pretty much always there. I don’t have to ask anyone for the password.

If I want to see someone I know, I can do that, pretty easily, within a matter of minutes. And if I don’t want to see anyone, if I just want to read or wallow around for half a day severely and inexplicably depressed, punching myself in the thighs as hard as I can, hoping that it may help me feel something, then I can do all that too, behind a door and walls that shield me from view and give me space to not be watched. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to sit where I am and read, nor to wallow around, punching my legs and wondering if they will bruise and then marveling at how much my legs can ache without showing any visible evidence. I can do all these things. Or not. Either way, it’s cool.

Suddenly there’s this vacuum to try and fill in. Its magnitude is immense. The abyssal freedom before me overwhelms. Where once there was a full day ahead of handling the basics, where to eat or excrete, how to get there, where to sleep… suddenly all of that is just handled. Peeing takes no more time and effort than the time and effort it takes me to pee. There is all this time and there are all these possibilities.

Depression hangs like a cloud here as it did all over everywhere I went. It does not go away, but sometimes the darkness lightens. Today has been a fascinating mix of the darkness and the lightness. Today is not unlike many days of the trip. Life rolls on much as it did for me and for others while I was on the road. And with all that, there is too the awareness of just how smoothly everything continues without me, without any of us. The inertia of life itself supercedes our own.

So we must make our own momentum, carve out our own spaces. I’m trying to do that in a meaningful way, but still wandering the funhouse of aliveness, bumping into walls, trundling through confusion and hopelessness, determination and optimism.

What do I do with all this time? What is meaningful? Years of living out questions yields ever more questions. In the hundreds of days spent wandering and watching and listening there was also a lot of time to think and reflect. All the idealism such time yields fits well in the cracks of society, fluttering in the winds of transience. Now suddenly things are measured again. There are schedules. People have bills and rent, landlords. And I no longer float in and out of their lives. The struggle of a long string of goodbyes is converting itself back into the cyclical struggle of familiar hellos. This town, full of lords exerting their will to which we are beholden, is not unlike the others through which I’ve passed, and it is not so unlike itself before I returned.

So for now I have a place where I’m allowed to be. I don’t have to ask permission. No one is telling me what to do. Survival is not a quest in the same sense as before. Maslow’s bottom tier: check. My pieces fracture at times, but I’m holding it together, about as well as any of us it seems.

So now what?

What’s It Like to Be Home?!

-Oh hey! So good to see you! What’s it like to be back?

-Well, kinda weird, really. It’s more-

-How was the trip?!

-Oh man, how do I sum up two years of my life? It was a real mix of good and bad. Some of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming experiences of my life. I’m really happy I did it. But I’m glad to be in one place again. I’m definitely going to enjoy just being in one place for a while. It’s like-

-What’s your favorite place you went to?!?!

-You know, I hate picking favorites. But people ask this a lot and I usually say Uruguay. It’s gorgeous there, warm year round. The people are-

-Wow! I’ve never been to Uruguay. Where is that again?

-It’s on the Atlantic coast between Argentina and Brazil.

-Brazil! Cool! World Cup!!! I bet it’s really something, going all over the world and then being back here. You know, I went on this trip to Europe last year. It was amazing! I got to see the Eiffel Tower and everything. People are really rude sometimes. I think they hate Americans, haha. But I found most people to be nice actually. And the food! Oh, the food. I bet the food in – wait, what was it again?

-Uruguay.

-Yeah, Uruguay. I bet the food there is awesome, huh? So spicy!

-Um, yeah, kinda. You know it’s funny, they don’t really like spicy stuff there. In parts of Latin America, especially México or Perú, everything is spicy. But further south they really don’t-

-Oh man, I love spicy food!!! This one time, for my friend’s bachelor party, we drove down to Tijuana from Vegas. The fish tacos were so good… so spicy! And at first I thought my stomach was acting up because of all those jalapeños. But you know what they say? Don’t drink the water. Haha. We got so sick. But I dunno, we drank a lot too. Tequila, man. And you know what else they say… What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Ha-HA! I guess that saying just goes for that whole area, you know? I mean, you know.

-…

-So where to next???!

-Nowhere. I’ll be here a while.

Home!!!

IN ENGLISH:

I got into Athens last Sunday, 10 days ago, my last ride conveniently dropping me off at the Pilgrims’ Pride plant right around the corner from Laura’s trapeze studio, my transportation made possible by the evident need to move chicken carcasses from north Georgia to West Virginia. So now I’m living in a place with a bed and people I know and a cold, magical box full of healthy foods. I’m done traveling, after more than two years, sixteen countries, and ten billion conversations with strangers. What did it feel like to get back, to hug Laura, to start rushedly gushing praises of Uruguay, condemnations of Peru, and interrogatives about how we’re going to fix the world? Incredible, actually. I feel like I just finished a PhD in travel, or human studies, or intentional discomfort, or… A chapter of life closed, another one beginning, full of massive potential. Well, a chapter or PhD not totally closed, I guess, because Jesse and I want to write a book, which I guess makes us more like ABD. Oh, and he and Jess are still in South America, volunteering on a farm in Argentina last I heard. They’ll be flying out of Lima March 6th.

I flew from Lima to Fort Lauderdale on the 6th and hitched up to here, spending a comfy night in Port St John, Florida and the coldest one of the entire trip outside of Swainsboro, Georgia. Now I’m here, with my material needs met, and a shocking number of options for how to spend the next hours, months, and decades. So far I talked a lot about the path for transforming the US and the world, first to the maddeningly obvious unfinished work of social democracy and then onto the more difficult to visualize move to a socialist or anarchist society that actually functions and achieves the dream of a society that actually works to realize its fullest potential, for individuals and collectively. And I’ve spent a whole lot of hours reading about important things, Syriza/Greece’s battle for a new direction for austerity-engulfed Europe, the anti-capitalist, anti-state, feminist revolution in Syrian Kurdistan, and more detail on the rise of the Frente Amplio to power in Uruguay.

Anyway, I’m going to be trying to write a lot here as I work my way into writing the book. I want to put into words some of the incredible experiences from the last 5 months of the trip, and work through more of the ideas that will hopefully make our book a useful contribution to the project of bettering the human condition. Wow, so much hope! Let’s end with a paragraph that’s not about me.

Just a few hours after I got back, I got to go see Laura’s trapeze show at the non-profit studio where she both studies and works. Performance after performance at the show displayed some pretty amazingly artistic and athletic creatively choreographed routines. The performers ranged from teenagers to older women, and they performed in groups or individually, each piece the length of a song or two carefully selected to reflect their piece’s take on the show’s theme of duality. They were so good! I was particularly struck by a piece about imagination done by two older women. What hit me the hardest was that they got to be stars of something awesome and beautiful, have everyone’s attention and appreciation aimed directly at them while they did something of their own creation. I realized that that’s what we’re looking for. To be blunt, that’s…the revolution. I had just come back from Peru, a country that’s depressing for a whole bunch of reasons, but among them is that most people (at least on the coast, which is the only part I visited) just seem beat down by the difficulty of life. Women are particularly oppressed and objectified, surrounded by billboards and marketing showing them impossible, almost always white, images of female “beauty” and “must-have” products that they can’t afford. They’re kept out of good jobs by old boys networks and out of conversations and decision-making by patriarchal families. It’s not all bad, obviously, but it shows that we’ve got a long fucking way to go. And so too in the United States are we far from the society of equality and opportunity for self-actualization that we long for. But not so in Canopy Studios. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s why we’re socialists, honestly. Yeah, we want to make sure everyone has food and a decent place to live and all that. But what’s the point? Material well-being. Free time. Good education. These things are steps. They are the base components that make it possible to craft your own life, to craft your own routine on trapeze, fabrics, or some odd hanging cube-thing. I’m not even a dancer of any kind, but the possibility of escaping from the drudgery of toiling labor and the repression of common sense in a capitalist society – that’s what drives me to work for building a better world, one that places the growth of people over the growth of the GDP.

So, here’s to a future in which we all get to actualize ourselves in whatever way we want, to live beyond what is strictly necessary and do things that enhance our humanity and evince our existence.

All in everything together,

Adam
from home

EN ESPAÑOL:

Llegué en Athens el domingo pasado, hace 10 días, el último aventón dejándome convientemente en la fábrica de Pilgrims Pride, justo doblando la esquina del estudio de trapecio de Laura, mi transporte posibilitado por la necesidad evidente de desplazar unas carcasas de pollo del norte de Georgia a West Virginia. Así que ahora estoy viviendo en un lugar con una cama y gente que conozco y una caja mágica y fría llena de comidas saludables. Ya no viajo, después de más de dos años, dieciséis países y mil millones de conversaciones con desconocidos. ¿Cómo me sentí al llegar, abrazar a Laura, empezar a elogiar con entusiasmo a Uruguay, condenar con tristeza a Perú y interrogar sobre cómo vamos a arreglar el mundo? Increíble, de verdad. Me siento como que acabo de terminar un PhD en viajar, o estudios humanos, o incomodidad intencional, o… Un capítulo de la vida cerrado, otro empezando, lleno de posibilidades emocionantes. Bueno, un capítulo o PhD no cerrado del todo, supongo, porque Jesse y yo queremos escribir un libro, lo que nos deja más como ABD (falta la tesis para el PhD). Oh, y él y Jess todavía están en Sudamérica, trabajando gratis en una granja en Argentina, yo creo. Tienen su vuelo de Lima el 6 de marzo.

Yo volé de Lima a Fort Lauderdale, Florida el 6 de este mes y llegué aquí a dedo, pasando una noche cómoda en Port St John, Florida y la más fría de todo el viaje cerca de Swainsboro, Georgia. Ahora estoy aquí, con todo lo que necesito y un número impactante de opciones para cómo pasar los próximas horas, meses y décadas. Hasta ahora he conversado mucho sobre el camino para transformar los EEUU y el mundo, primero al trabajo exasperantemente incumplido de la socialdemocracia y entonces a la transición mucho más difícil de visualizar a una sociedad socialista o anarquista que funcione de verdad y realice el sueño de una sociedad que trabaje para realizar su potencial máximo, individual y colectivamente. Y he pasado muuuuuchas horas leyendo sobre cosas importantes, la batalla de Syriza y Grecia para una nueva dirección para una Europa ahogando en la austeridad, la revolución anticapitalist, anarquista y feminista en el Kurdistán Sirio y más detalle sobre el ascenso al poder del Frente Amplio en Uruguay.

De todas maneras, voy a intentar escribir mucho aquí mientras empiece a escribir el libro. Quiero poner en palabras algunas de las experiencias increíbles de los últimos cinco meses y dar forma a las ideas que con mucha suerte hagan que nuestro libro sea un aporte útil al proyecto de mejorar la condición humana. ¡Uau, tanta esperanza! Terminemos con un párrafo que no sea acerca de mí.

Solo unas horas después de mi llegada en Athens, tuve la oportunidad de asistir el show de trapecio en el estudio sin fines de lucro donde Laura estudia y enseña. Actuación tras actuación del show demostraron rutinas impresionantes, atléticas y artísticas, con coreografía re creativa. Los bailarines incluyeron tanto jóvenes como mujeres mayores y actuaron en grupos o como individuos, cada pieza con la duración de una o dos canciones cuidadosamente seleccionadas para reflejar la interpretación de su pieza sobre el tema de la dualidad. ¡Fueron excelentes! Me impactó especialmente una pieza sobre la imaginación realizada por dos mujeres mayores. Ellas, como todos en el show, puedieron ser las estrellas de algo genial y bonito – tener la atención y la admiración de todos enfocadas directamente en ellas mientras hacían algo de su propia creación. Me di cuenta de que es eso lo que buscamos. Para ser directo, eso es…la revolución. Acababa de regresar de Perú, un país en que la mayoría de la gente (por lo menos en la costa, la única parte que visité) simplemente parece golpeada por la dificultad de la vida. Las mujeres, en particular, son oprimidas y objetificadas, rodeadas de publicidad que les muestra imagenes imposibles y racistas de “belleza” feminina y les vende productos “indispensables” que no pueden alcanzar. Una cultura machista y patriarcal les limita las oportunidades laborales y la participación en las conversaciones y la toma de decisiones. No todo en la sociedad está mal, obviamente, pero es evidente que tenemos un camino muy largo para andar. Y también en Estados Unidos estamos lejos de la sociedad de igualdad y oportunidad para la autorealización que anhelamos. Pero no es así en Canopy Studios. Es para eso que luchamos. Es por eso que somos socialista, honestamente. Sí, queremos asegurar que todos tengan comida y un lugar digno para vivir. Pero, ¿qué es el punto? El bienestar material. El tiempo libre. Una educación buena. Esas cosas son peldaños. Son los componentes básicos que hacen posible diseñar tu propia vida, crear tu propia rutina en trapecio, telas o ese cubo extraño que se cuelga del techo. Ni siquiera soy bailarín de ningún tipo, pero la posibilidad de escaparnos del trabajo arduo y fastidioso y la represión del sentido común en una sociedad capitalista – eso es lo que me empuja a trabajar para construir un mundo mejor, uno que priorice el crecimiento del ser humano por encima del crecimiento del PIB.

Brindemos por un futuro en que todos nos podamos realizar de cualquier manera que queramos, poder vivir más allá de lo estrictamente necesario y hacer cosas que fortalecen nuesta humanidad y dan evidencia de nuestra existencia.

Todos juntos en todo,

Adam
en casa

Changing the Conversation

We are in motion again! Yeah, yeah… our electrons are always vibrating rapidly and the Earth is always rotating and revolving as our galaxy hurdles through the abyss at incomprehensible speeds… But in a larger and smaller sense, we’re back to traveling!

With packs on our backs and instruments in hand, our thumbs (and stunning good looks?) lured six gracious ride-givers, each of whom helped us reach the fine city of Gainesville, FL barely 24 hours after departing Athens. Our sights are set on South America by way of the Caribbean and Mexico. Hopefully some boat-sailing folks will be as open and generous this year as their solid-ground counterparts have been to us throughout 2013 and to this day. So far so great.

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Our beloved friends Adam and Lauraq took us out of town in the Vealemobile where we were promptly picked up by a young couple envying our trip. Then an initially incredulous cop who’d never given hitchhikers a ride before took us well beyond the county line she’d initially mandated we accept a ride to. Before we could even set our packs down a Mormon husband and wife proudly parenting five children brought us down to the highway split where our paths diverged and there, at a gas station, the first person we asked seemed to think transporting us in the back of his US military truck was a swell idea. This National Guardsman has succeeded for over two years now at his personally delegated task of at least three significant acts of kindness every day, thus proving that you can never judge books by their covers or, more literally in this case, people by their camouflaged fatigues. All that felt like enough for one day so we hobbled, under-slept and sweaty, toward the silty brown waters of Lake Sinclair, just North of Milledgeville, and enjoyed a swim beneath the austere smokestack of a Georgia Power plant among swarms of chironomidae before stealth-camping in a grassy field behind some RVs in a storage facility.

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Today our good fortune with good people continues thanks to some lovely Waffle House employees, a ride from an enthusiastic and supportive college professor, and then a long roll with an awake, aware, and alive woman, who very graciously digressed here, en route from NC to her organic farm on the Southeastern coast, with her four cats in the back of the van. Jess pet them.

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Those who’ve remained connected to our sadly neglected blog yet haven’t spoken to us might be wondering what happened with that campaign we made a four-thousand-mile digression back to Athens for… Well, we lost in the ballot box. Tim received 40% of the vote in an off-year local election where under 1/4 of the voting population even turned out. Appallingly, the turnout in this election was actually a few points higher than the average, which, on an up-note, is arguably thanks to all our efforts. We knocked on thousands of doors and met countless wonderful people whose lives and community we feel connected to and a part of in a way we’ve maybe never felt before. And while Athens has four more years of uninspiring, unimaginative, out-of-touch leadership to deal with, some notable accomplishments have resulted from our efforts. An organization is being formed to harness and expand upon the momentum that was built since November against poverty and for social justice. Pulling from our campaign’s slogan, the organization is called Athens for Everyone. Among other more concrete things, Athens for Everyone will continue to change the conversation in Athens, and hopefully, in some small ways, the regional dialogue as well.

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The more avid readers among you may recall my previous entries about the importance of conversation (like this one). Whenever we talked about changing the conversation surrounding Athens politics, we were sure to clarify that we aimed not only to change what it was about, but also who was part of it, hearing it and being heard. Athens has an especially heinous poverty and inequality problem and is no stranger to a whole host of social issues from racism to sexual assault. In a town where the predominantly privileged campaign on their personalities and these issues go ignored, our campaign – Tim’s campaign – was a horizontally organized, radically progressive stand against that convention. More importantly, we stood with folks from the most marginalized parts of town for a bold vision of a more equal and democratic society with free public transit, affordable child care, and living wages.

What made all our time and energy spent worthwhile – to us – was that those conversations on people’s porches, at their churches, in the papers, were about the very important topics typically left out of the political dialogue and that they were especially with the people most affected and least included in that dialogue. We all have a lot to learn from each other and we have a lot of potential to evolve in a positive way together, but none of that will happen without first having such conversations. That brings me to the third aspect of changing the conversation that I think applies to our trip as well: how we talk with each other.

Listening is so important. As is remembering how wrong we might be, and how important others’ stories are, regardless of how little our views and backgrounds overlap. Atypically, our campaign’s outreach hinged on the principles of Transformative Organizing, and we emphasized listening over proselytizing as we went door-to-door. With the electoral experience in our rear-view, we’re back to more geographically diverse “idea-pollinating” and hoping to grow ourselves and engage others we’d otherwise never meet, in conversations about things that matter, in a manner that’s at least somewhat novel… reaching out to listen and learn.

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Now, sitting in front of a Starbucks with an empty wallet, watching a tiny reptile eat an even tinier caterpillar alive, I can’t help but wonder at the meaning of any of this. And while continued reflection and questioning is invaluable, I still think what we’re doing is – at least as much as anything can be – worth a damn. And that’s a nice feeling to own day-to-day. So here’s to a better world and a better understanding of what that world can be.

Athens for Everyone! Everyone for Everyone!

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with love in solidarity,
Jesse
looking across Newberry Road at the cumulus clouds above Gainesville, FL, USA

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Georgia? Again? Really???

Yup. But wait…

In case Jesse’s last post didn’t make it clear, we’re back in Athens, GA. Why are we in this place again, a place we were already in before? A dude’s doin’ a thing, with a lot of other awesome folks, and we think we should help that dude do it. That is, Tim Denson is running for mayor in a totally winnable race against an incumbent who shares his surname but not his blood, ideals, or vigor. Yeah, Tim’s vigorous. And this endeavor has invigorated us, though our abysmal posting rate since arriving here might not indicate that.

We decided to come back until the May 20th election because strongly progressive political movements are an important way to improve people’s lives and move toward a better world. We think. (It’s also possible that cutting food stamps and calling poor people lazy is the best way to improve things, but we think the frighteningly large portion of the population who thinks that is at least partially mistaken.) And this strongly progressive political movement has a significantly better chance of significant success with significant in-person contributions from us, so we came back. We left the ridiculously beautiful nature and incredibly warm people of México to spend the winter in Georgia.

Oh boy.

But seriously, this whole campaign is bubbling over with promise and attainable awesomeness founded in compassionate ideals.

What’s Tim’s platform?! What’s Tim’s platform?! Well, you can read the whole thing here. [<—that link] ¡Y en español también! [<—ese link]

Some highlights: Do everything in our power to bring people out of poverty, even if it means poking those who pay property taxes with the stick of obligation to share the wealth from which they benefit disproportionately. Take the incredibly radical step of ensuring that every kid has access to affordable Pre-K. Make the buses frequent and free. Free! Stop turning undocumented immigrants over to the immigration Gestapo and let them go to college. Start a sexual assault task force because our culture’s status quo has a shocking number of rapes. Push as hard as we can for a living wage in a community with tens of thousands of working poor. Start a bike share and community-wide composting service. Legalize backyard chickens. It’s awesome.

Awesome like Mulegé, but in a different way.

– Adam (w/ Jesse)