6.23.2009

philly/DC

A quick update from the road.

After my last entry, I spent time in RI and NJ with friends/family. This included a few trips to NYC to visit friends in Manhattan and Brooklyn (by train of course; I'd never involve the van in that). It was unusually rainy and cool in the northeast. NJ in particular seemed to be drowning in its own rain.

Not much went on with van-dwelling aside from telling people stories of my year on the road. I'm not much of an oral storyteller and I had to mentally plan which story to tell to who and how to tell it. The story I found myself telling most often was of Slab City and all its weirdness. But most of the trip involved long bouts of quiet solitude and contemplation which doesn't make for good stories.

I remembered how a year ago while preparing for the trip I kept imagining myself coming back to these places post-vantrip and seeing these people. I imagined I'd be a different man: older, wiser, and so on. I wouldn't feel angsty or amateurish and maybe I'd have a scar or two as well as a handful of crazy stories. I guess I am some of those qualities and did get some scars and stories but it doesn't seem that way. I feel like the same guy except I'm poorer and the whole "solo road trip" thing is crossed off my list of "shit to do before i die". The feelings of angst (or whatever you want to call it... hunger, uncertainty, anxiety, etc) persist and I don't really know what I want to do with my life. In "Into the Wild", Jon Krakeur talks eloquently about that sensation... he describes quitting his job to undertake a severely-difficult solo climb, barely surviving the climb, then coming back and returning to the same job and the same town and so on and so forth, with all his old problems still haunting him.

Now I'm on the road again, this time with co-pilot Jora Johnson, for another month or two of road-tripping.

First off, we visited a friend in Western Philadelphia. The friend lived in an apartment in a dilapidated old house that had no electricity but for that which the rooftop solar panels provided. This amounted to enough power for a few lights and a radio player. Water came from the city. There was a kind of camping, squatting, and city-living fusion going on there. Space was limited so I spent the night in the van alone. People walked by the van all night and some cats got into a fight underneath it (or at least it sounded that close). It's always a little unnerving van-dwelling in a new city.

The next day we walked around Philadelphia a little. I always think of Philly as being bleak, gray, and balmy, and it was all 3 of those things today. It seems like a harsh metropolis as big and complicated as NY or LA but which never achieves the lunatic-joy-chaos of those cities. I think of M. Night Shamalayan's horror movies set in Philly, or of Bukowski's poems about bar fights in Philly, or of the Philadelphia Eagles, a team known for being kind of brutal on the field. This is just my impression as a once-in-awhile visitor to the city. I know its not such a bleak place...

After getting lunch we drove to Washington DC. Jora had her first experience driving the van and did well, even in the hellish traffic surrounding the city. It was odd being a passenger. In DC we met with another friend and are spending the night in his apartment. The van is sleeping on the street below in an unmetered area.

Tomorrow we drive for Virginia...

Thanks for reading...

2 comments:

Liz said...

Hey Justin -

This is Liz Gerber from NP. I've been following your blog for many months now and enjoy coming back to it every so often. I just finished reading this entry and see that you're coming to VA soon - do you know which routes you'll be taking yet? Skyline Drive? 95? I live with my boyfriend in Fredericksburg, a small town off 95, about an hour south of DC. If you were planning to come this way, please let me know: it would be exciting to see you and would be an honor to give you a tour of our small town!

Liz
elizabeth.gerber@gmail.com

The Traveler said...

I know I don't comment much, but I just wanted to say that yours is one of the very few blogs that I regularly check in on. I love reading your honest, fun, descriptive posts and hope that you keep this blog up for quite some time... Sonja