from Lompoc, CA

29 06 2009

I’m mildly alarmed to report that I have gotten so comfortable not showering whilst in the midst of my many-day hiking/driving/hiking/driving jaunts that, at times such as this, when I have the fortune of staying where the water is running and soap is a dime a dozen, I don’t necessarily feel that bathing myself is such a pressing or even interesting concern.  Dirt doesn’t exactly become me, perhaps, but neither is it such a hated hanger-on.  I’m not saying I’m conditioned to enjoy body odor or anything—I seriously doubt anyone I’ve met in this state has had a reservation as to my hygiene—but I do seem to be finding it acceptable to delay showering for considerably longer than in the past.  Again, this doesn’t mean that I’m living in filth.  Not by a longshot.  I used to have to shower before I could comfortably fall asleep, for crying out loud.

One’s sensibilities must invariably change when one puts oneself into a wholly novel situation for a longer term, that’s all.  This is one of those changes, I suppose.  It’s not the most important, either.  My appreciation for dry goods has increased dramatically.  I can eat crackers in many forms for more than one meal per day.  Clothes are not “dirty” after one wearing.  Socks and underwear are, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t wear them a second time if the need arises.  I’ve been traveling and living out of my car and tent and friends’ abodes for nearly 2 months now, and certainly, I’ve changed.

As interesting as the shift in my personal hygiene habit is, it’s most likely not the most important of the affectations that have infected the daily me. I’ve lost the will to shape my diet, it seems.  The novelty or the specialty of regional foods has been reason enough to undo my purposeful eating, at least temporarily.  But if you have a chance to eat the world famous Oki’s Dog, a burrito stuffed with two all-beef hot dogs, chili, pastrami, and some manner of cheese (which I nixed, of course), you don’t turn it down (I wouldn’t get it a second time, to be honest, but the Orange Bang was awesome).  And I would have never forgiven myself if I hadn’t had Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles—which, by the by, was so awesome that I am considering moving to LA just to keep it at the ready.  I’ve also begun to have a hard time writing, which I was really into before I left on this trip.  Maybe the constant scramble of living in anticipation of the next decision, which is ever on the horizon, is more of an obstacle than an interesting subject about which to think and write.  Also, I think I’ve become a bit extreme in my twin desires to be alone and to be around people.  Every morning I awaken fiercely desiring the day to be a 12-hour soiree full of interesting people or a silent island with nothing but a path to walk and a canteen to fill.

Mostly, I get neither, of course, and this is no tragedy.

The strangest difference is that, through a life on the road, being either alone or visiting with people I see very little in general, I feel as though I’m not living a life at all.  It’s more as though I’m observing many lives in brief, and diverting some people’s attentions fleetingly, but just on the surface, and just for a little.  My impacts of light and easily forgotten.  I feel like a ghost in this respect, maybe.  It’s not that I don’t believe that impressions made and left are empty or meaningless, but when you don’t spend any longer with someone with whom you’ve shared time, it doesn’t appear to you as though you’ve made a difference, and with all of the new experiences coming your way, last week seems like a different life, or like a movie you watched.

Additionally, against my judgement, I’ve begun to waste time wondering what my life is going to be like when and if I choose a life, a location, or an occupation—when I take on something with a little more permanence.  I worry about it some.  Maybe because I don’t know that I’ll be satisfied with any of the avenues that will be open when the time comes.  Maybe because it’s more normal to worry about it and a part of me is secretly interested in becoming normal.  Mostly, I try not to worry about it, but I’ve begun to get the feeling that I always am worrying about it, and my brain’s not being upfront with me about it.

Where I am trying always to be totally present, I’m thinking a concealed part of me is plotting some funny mutiny, readying itself to swing the ship back around to someplace safer, better known.  Normal.

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