The past couple of weeks I have been traveling through the American West, making stops at Orr Hot Springs, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Death Valley National Park, Virgin Valley Warm Springs in northern Nevada, the Chewaucan River outside of Paisley, Oregon, Summer Lake Hot Springs, also near Paisley, and other wildlife refuges and national forest lands in California, Nevada and Oregon. Currently I am camping in perhaps my favorite place upon our planet, the Quincy Game Range (or Quincy Lakes), which is managed by the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife. The past few days I have been walking the southern part of the range, discovering new trails and lakes and ponds. At all times of day and night I am serenaded by bird songs and the yipping of coyotes. It is a good place. Excuse the few rattlesnakes you might encounter because they too have the right to enjoy the countryside. And besides, it's their home, and you are the visitor.
I mention all this because nature, the natural world is the antithesis to the workplace of the urban cabbie. And I ask, is it truly worth it, putting up with the stupidity that is modern urban existence---honking horns, glowering cops, choking exhaust, along with the pressure to make more and more money just to have a place to sleep. If this is reasonable then insanity has become the cultural norm, an escalating malady engulfing everyone, promoting insult and incivility and sheer recklessness where lucidity is shoved into the densest shadows.
Again, is it all worth it, toiling 12 plus hours a day, to what end, for what purpose? The past few months, while I have been soaking in Iceland's geothermal waters, eating great Parisian cooking and now walking in the now flowering eastern Washington desert, Seattle taxi buddies have been working away day after day minus any relief. James says he hasn't had a vacation in five years. Ted sleeps in his cab. Emanuel had his cab's window smashed and the taxi computer stolen. Long called and left a message, asking who do I use when I need a tow, his Prius broken down on the side of the road. No cabbie I know is having any fun and soon, beginning Sunday, I too will once again be amongst their ranks. Is any of this sensible?
Maybe the best response is, how could it be? As I said last week, even when the money is flowing, cab driving in a royal pain-in-the-butt! That point underlined and exemplified by the recent complaint I received, my only crime empathy, treating someone who obviously isn't accustomed to it, as an equal. When you do your best and are still punished, then you know what cab driving is all about, and it isn't good, no, not at all.
While all this is true, you might say, what then is the alternative to being a wage slave in a noisy city? The short term answer probably is what was being preached back in those revolutionary 1960s:
simplify your life by turning back to the land, grow your own food and breathe the good country air. But of course even if you did that, at least saving yourself, it is hard to ignore the billions left behind in every American and worldwide city, meaning you remain connected even when you not directly in the line-of-fire.
So is there anything all of us can do in the present while simultaneously tied to society's navel? First, beyond any doubt, both recognize and express that what we all accept as normal is unacceptable. And secondly, begin taking as much time as you can to have fun despite the hell you are in the midst of. Do that and begin thinking of what else can I do since the life I am living is unacceptable. The strongest stance you can take is to understand that the clangor and the pounding you are taking is completely and forever unacceptable. Make a plan.
And as quickly as you can, escape!
Walking to Something
After two earlier tries I decided to give myself
setting off early and kept walking up and down the flowered trails
three species of purple and four yellow talking to me
along with accompanying bird song
past small lakes and ponds and then new to me
a tangle of weathered planks speaking local memory
and finally the expected cliffs
and the broad Columbia
glad to have reached something
watching five agitated crows caw and murmur
over and round a nearby cliff side.
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