Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 112: September 24 2009, West of Florence Junction to Tempe (36 mi)

I never wrote an entry for that day. Though I really dont have much to say about it. Phoenix is fuckin huge, but skating 20 miles through an urban area is so much easier than 20 miles in the middle of an empty road (though the empty road is much more fun...usually). I got into Tempe about 5ish and met up with some old friends. I dont know how long I'm going to spend in Phoenix, but it's still an open date to this point

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 111: September 23 2009, Superior to west of Florence Junction (22mi)

Again taking my time, no rush to cover distance. Today was easy. It was so fucking windy last night. Didn't sleep well. Got up early, 6AM. One more mountain pass then down we go. I walked the first 3 miles outside of Superior. Tight, shitty shoulder gave me no other option. After the Boyce Thompson Arboritum State Park, the shoulder got wide. Widest shoulder I've ever been on. Enough to fit 2 Hummers side by side. Wider than the lanes on the road. And smoother. Thats what I'm fucking talking about.

A little hilly up until Gonzalez Pass but the tailwind was blowing strong. Kicks carried me far. I passed a guy walking cross country and he stared at me in jealousy. It seems like he had been walking for a while. He wished he had a skateboard, that's what he screamed to me as I skated past him. At the top I started stressing. For the first mile down it was steep, 6% grade steep. And the wind pushing me made me go fast, real fast, too fast for comfort, at least for me on this board. I tried to foot brake, there was no slowing down. I felt the speedwobble. Figuring I could go about 20 mi/hr comfortable, I must have been going 30 0something. I was really scared. For the first time I wished the tailwind turned into a headwind. I focused, balanced and at least it was going to flatten out eventually. At 1010 I was at Florence Junction, didn't have to put my foot down. Cruised. I thought there was going to be some services here, but nada, just a junction to Florence. Skated about 7 more miles. Finished early. Gonna just wrap it up and skate to Tempe tomorrow.

Day 110: Sept 22 2009, Claypool to Superior (10mi)

Lazy, late start. I slept until about 8ish not wanting to rush. Even decided I'd rather walk so I walked 2 miles to Miami, the copper capital of the world and got there at about 9. Had a couple of donuts, rested, being lazy, and then kept going. The road after Miami consisted of nice hills witha good tailwind for about 4 miles. Then there was some serious road construction for the next 4 miles. Tight shoulders, rough roads, and loose gravel everywhere made for a stressing skate. So I walked and came up to a flagger.
"Where are you walking to?"
"San Diego"
"Are you serious?!"
If he only knew how far I'd come. San Diego doesn't even seem that far to me anymore. Its only the next state, but it's all a mtter of relativity. The road work was serious. They were widening it, which meant that they were scraping the sides off the mountain. It ended at Top of the World. I made it safely there at about 11. I intended to keep skating to the Oak Flats Campground about 5 miles further but a man in his 40s with a limp called me over as I was trying to figure out if Top of the World Trading Post (the little shop in town) was open.
"Hey, you need a drink?" asked the old man from a distance
"Yeah, is this place open?"
"No, I got some water if you want" waving for me to come over
"Cool" So I walked over
"I used to skate"
"Oh yeah?"
"Yeah a long time ago. T" extending his hand to introduce himself (I'm not going to mention his real name out of respect)
"Omar, nice to meet you. And thank you" Shaking his hand
"Have a seat here while I get you a drink" He pointed to some chairs outside his duplex

He brought me a cold Pepsi, offered beer and a cigarette but I thanked him and declined. I kept asking him questions, he didn't seem too interested in my journey. I guess he was originally from Chicago and had been living in Palm Beach for a while. He had a girl who inhereted millions from her parents and they threw it away on crack. They broke up and he moved to Phoenix. There he got involved with meth and one day got a DUI and aggravated assualt for spitting on the cop and got four years in prison. In prison, he claimed to have started receiving messages from aliens, "the grays" and "the greens". He couldn't explain it to me, the messages, that is. The only thing was that the "grays" didn't like the "greens" and something was going to go down in the future, that's all he wanted to say.

Besides the crack and the alien stuff which really didn't bother me, there wa something about his manner I felt sketched out about. He kept saying how the town of 30 people all feared the police because they thought they were spying on them. His dad found him this place after jail. He got a $600 check from the government every month after convincing them that his knee got hurt getting abducted from by aliens. With that money he paid his rent here and lived. After our conversation he asked if I wanted to walk around town to check it out. Of course. I also wanted to see how his community reacted to this guy, because I knew there was something loose.

First he took me to Top of the World Sidewinders where I met Tommy and Tammy. They were a badass couple who put car engines on motorcycles, to drag race. The engines only fit sideways, hence the name. Tommy was working on a bike that was fitted with an old V8 Corvette engine. A beast it was. They acted ok around T, but I still wasn't sure. Next he took me to the drug house as he called it. The door was slightly open and he just walked in.
"Party house" he said "doesn't seem like anyone is here"
I walked inside and it looked like a dirty college party house. I saw bags of dried pinto beans laying around everywhere. Pillos and covers on the floor told me somebody, probably more than one, were sleeping here not too long agao. Why the fuck is he showing me this nasty ass spot, I thought. We left after finding nobody and he walked with his stick and limp with the dumbest smirk on his face.

Something is up with this guy. I knew it and now I had to stick around to find out. We went back to his house and sat. He offered another Pepsi.
"So where do you sleep?"
"I find a place to camp. Im headed to Oak Flats"
"Well, aaaahh, I ain't no fag or no killer or nothing but you can sleep here"
"Cool man, we'll see what happens"
"Im gonna go see if somebody is going to town. You watch the house for me?"
"Yeah, sure"
"Alright, I'll be back"

How could this guy just leave me here in his house. I went and grabbed my book, "The Hot Zone", about Ebola and read. It was now about 430 and T had been gone for more than an hour. I had finished the last few chapters of my book and was at a loss of what to do. I thought about just leaving but didn't want to be disrespectful after his kindness. He came back 10 minutes later with a baby handle of whisky in his hand already half gone. He seemed pretty tipsy, came and sat, then lifter his hands up
"Oh the dope! I gotta go get something" as if I didn't hear what he just said.
"Yeah go ahead man"

He headed to the right where some trailers were. Again he dissappeared for a while. When I saw him coming back he was walking from the opposite direction on the highway, the same route we had taken to the drug trailer. But it was empty, why did he head over there. And why did he start off at the opposite side? Just questions. He comes and sits then about 1o minutes later I notice smoke from the eastside of town. I make nothing of it, then the smoke gets darker and darker, thicker and thicker. I get up to get a closer look.
"Man this smoke looks bad, it might be coming from Tommy's. Should we go check to see if he's alright?"
"Huh? It looks ok"

I guessed I must have been overreacting. Maybe Tommy was smoking one of his bikes or something. But the smoke only intensified. Now I saw Tommy and Tammy running out of their shop looking east.
"Man I really think we should see whatsup. Someone might need help"
He looked at me like I was hallucinating. "Uhhhh, yeah...."
"Well Im gonna go see"
I ran towards the smoke. And there is was the drug trailer was burning intensly. Like the Olympic Torch was burning.
"Son of a bitch, motherfucking druggies" Tommy was now really worried that the strong westerly wind would blow the fire right into his shop. Everything was pretty dry and the fire was spreading quick.
"Where's the fire department? Did anybody call 9-1-1?" I frantically asked
"We called them. They transferred us to Miami FD. Miami then transferred us to Superior FD. We just have to wait" a bearded man replied
"Well is there a water source?"
"That place has been abandoned for months. Junkies come and go every once in a while. It's got nothing, not even a spetic system"

The fire had now been burning for a half hour. The whole trailer was toast. It's deck was now catching on fire including a propane grill. It was so hot, you couldn'y even stand on the opposite end of the street. I took some pictures from that angle but couldn't stand for long. On hour, getting dark and still no fire truck. The fire now caught on the electric lines until they ripped and started sparking. little explosions kept goign off. The sheriff just arrived when just about the frame was left. It was still burning strong. The smoke was so thick, with the wind blowing hard towards where we stood we couldn't see. It was now dark. It stung your eyes standing 500 feet away like you were putting your head close to a campfire. The fire truck from Superior arrived 10 minutes after the sheriff followed by another from Miami in the opposite directions. People were standing everywhere on the road except for T. I looked around again for him but instead I heard an old woman talk.
"Its that crazy guy that lives down there" pointing to the direction of T's house. "I've seen him try to light things on fire before. I saw him walking past it 10 minutes before"

Oh shit I thought. I asked her what the guys name was, she didn't know but she described T. I went back to the house where he was sitting casually drinking a beer.
"How you doin man?" I asked him
"I feel great"
"Yeah? Man did you start that fire?"
"Me? No. Why would I do something like that?" I looked into his eyes. The eyes don't lie. He couldn't look me back. I knew he acted way too cool and too passive about this. I know I saw him walking from that direction 10 minuted before the smoke. He had gone into that house earlier. I walked back to where people were watching. He walks up later and asks how was it. When the sheriff walks over he goes up to him

"This guy's a dealer" poiting to a bald older man with a mustache
"T, this is not the time or place fore this" the sheriff replied
"He told me he was going to get his gun and shoot me" now replied the bald man
"Guys, please take this somewhere else"

The sheriff knew T's name. He must have done something. I had to let them know what I thought and saw. Tammy told me I should let the sheriff know too. When I said what I knew and how I met him, the sheriff told me T was bipolar. And just because he acted cool about it didn't prove anything. He wasn't all there. Either way, I wasn't about to spend the night there. The sheriff offered me a ride 8 miles to Superior and I didn't hesitate to accept. I waite until 10PM until everything was over and the sheriff was ready. I'm still pretty sure T set that place on fire.

It was a cold windy night and I couldn't wait to get into my sleeping bag. Beneath some mesquite trees I lay again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 109: September 21 2009, San Carlos to Claypool (23 mi)

Rusty start afer being easy for a whole week. The most generous locals of San Carlos insisted on giving me a ride to Phoenix. When I declined they offered to at least give me a ride to Florence Junction at the base of the mountains. Again I declined, preffereing to skate. They again insisted at least to the San Carlos line. No thank you I replied. They just couldn't comprehend why someone would want to skate and walk instead of ride in an air conditioned car. No matter how much I explained that this journey needed to be as slow as possible and to be skated as much as possible, they just couldn't comprehend. Such a kind hospitable people, that only cared for my well being.

After riding with them to Globe so many times last week to dine and shope I realized how boring it is to travel by car. You dont get to appreciate the landscape, you can't feel the elements and there is no rewarding feeling after finally reaching your destination. Everytime, I just couldn't wait to get out of the car.

Anyhow, again a necessary early start to the day, where I took rouch ass Indian Route 6 to US-70 a 12 mile ride. The road was terribly rough but after some relaxing times in San Carlos, suffering a little, I convinced myself is just fine. It took me tow hours to cover that road and I was on US 70 at 820. One mile into 70 and I was saying farwell to the reservation that has welcomed me so kindly and grdually began to greet Phoenix, which I'm so excited for to see some real old friends.

I got to Globe an hour later and ran some errands and ate. I found a little lump on my lower back right on top of my spinal cord that I'm stressin about. I can't see or take pictures of it but can feel it. If it keeps up, Im gonna have to get it checked out. i just hope it's not a disc. Down to $62.13 until Phoenix. I can make it happen easily until then, but will definetely need a job there. Taking my time. I won't cover more than 30 miles for the next week. Besides the coming 6% grade after Top of The World, AZ, I found that among all this randomness its nice to have a little routine of skating five days and resting two. My shoes' lifespan are almost up. No foot braking down the slopes, new pair in Phoenix.

I just want to get to San Diego, and get this trip over with. Not that I'm sick of it, but the more time I relax and not on the road, the more I reflect and every reflection I feel is so inaccurate because I'm still not done. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

Monday, September 21, 2009

One Week in Apache Land

Well I didn't get to eat Peyote like I hoped and I didn't get to spend that much time at the Sunrise Dance like I planned but its all good because I had a great time nonetheless. Truly, Robert and Alice were such hospitable hosts, I'm so lucky I ended up with them. There are a few lessons I learned and impressions I came out with. Some of which I will share, and some which out of respect, I will not.

Life on the San Carlos reservation, I hoped would be much more traditional in an Apache way. Not that I thought people lived in tee pees but I thought traditions would have been kept. Instead I came to realize that life on the reservation, to my disappointment, was almost the same as an American town. I hoped I would eat much more traditional food, but instead I was kindly fed pizza, bacon, eggs, hot dogs, and broccoli rice. I did get to eat some delicious acorn dumpling soup though which was delicious, nothing like I have ever had before. Most people on the reservation cannot even understand Apache, let alone speak it and that's why I realized that people looked at me weirdly when I tried to greet them in Apache. It made me think about some things about me. I cannot criticize the Apaches for losing so many elements of their culture, I can say the same thing about my own. I became very disappointed seeing the effects of a people who lose their beautiful traditions.

Drinking is such a problem on the reservation (rez). A DUI is like a coming of age celebration in many ways. It was very sad to see how alcohol controlled these peoples lives. The only convenience store that sells alcohol at the reservation, the C store, from what I heard is the number one seller of alcohol in the whole state of Arizona. As a matter of fact Budweiser executives have been known to visit there. I have seen a great majority drinking 40s in the early morning or late at night. That's just what people do, drink. As a consequence, most of the community is unproductive and as Robert put it to me, the people on the reservation have no self determination, they just want to have fun. And as another consequence there is a huge problem with diabetes, heart problems, and obesity. Most people on the rez are unattractively overweight. For the tiny community of 4 or 5 thousand there is a whole diabetes center; I have never seen that in a community that size before. The Apaches have not adapted and have not evolved to the disgusting habits of modern life, drinking in alcoholic ways and fatty foods. They were once a healthy people who got everything from the environment around them, gathering and hunting, but the situation is very different now.

It is such a shame how traditions are lost. I was 'invited' to go to a Pentecostal service by an Apache minister. Christianity and Islam have both, unlike any other religion, conquered, converted, and completely dissolved the traditions of other people for the sake of seeing the light. It is so so disappointing to me.

Having said all this, there are still the proud few. I was very happy to hear one of my 'tour guides' Jameson talk to me about the Apaches fighting against a copper corporation from Australia trying to buy and mine Apache land for the sake of economic growth. When the Chinese mayor of Superior hosted a delegation of Apaches to try and find out why they were fighting, they told him that this was their sacred land that they prayed and lived on. He told them that when he came to America, he dropped his chopsticks for a spoon. Jameson wasn't there but he told me how frustrated he became with that comment. He said that his people didn't hop here on a boat from a foreign land. This was Apache land for years and years. They wouldn't give their land up to a corporation that was going to pollute their waters with toxins, destroy their holy sites and pay their ununionized workers shit wages so they can make as much money as possible and send it back to wherever they came from. That made me happy to hear.

The Apache culture is a beautiful one. Every culture is a beautiful one. The lesson I learned coming out is how sad it is to see traditions lost because of a conqueror who forcibly brings theirs upon you to bring you a better life. Life on the reservation today is a sad consequence of bringing that better life, just like the Aborigines who live in desperate poverty in Australia. I have left San Carlos and its people behind, but they will always have a special place in my heart.

The journey continues in search of more answers, which bring more questions, and force me to keep travelling. Life is good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 103, Part II: How I Ended Up With an Apache Family

I really feel so lucky and so blessed. I'm chilling in what could probably be a 5 star accommodation trailer. Today I gathered the courage to go and ask the council for permission to stay on the reservation. They first said that I needed to purchase a permit for $10/day to be here. I said that it was out of my budget especially because I wanted to hang around for a week and witness the upcoming Sunrise Dance Festival. Let me get into the details.

After my adventures with the drunk ladies, I skated into San Carlos from Peridot after dropping them off. I got into town and there Paul who I talked about in my last post came up to me and escorted me to the library where I wrote about my adventures that day. I still didn't have permission to stay on the reservation so I went to a market right where some people where hanging out outside. I asked a lady sitting outside where I could speak to the tribal leader and she pointed me to the building next door.

"Go and ask for Chairman Windslar Nosie. His office is at the end of the hall"

I was really nervous, wondering what the outcome could be. What if he laughed in my face? Told me I wasn't welcome? Called the tribal police to escort me off the reservation? Still, I had to try, I had to at least give it a shot. I walked into that hallway as if it was a dark cave with no light on the other side. I could see the room at the end of the hallway. About three people were waiting in line to speak to the same man and here I was. This foreign looking dude with this huge bag on his back waiting behind all these locals waiting on the advice of their leader; what could he possibly want? A younger looking guy came up to me. This guy was big. I already felt tiny amongst all these people, this guy seemed like he was 7 foot tall, 300 lbs. Realistically he was about 6'2", 280lbs.

"Can I help you with something?"
"Yes, I uhh, am looking to speak with the chairman"
"In regard to what?"
"Well, I'm travelling and was wondering if I could get permission from him to stay on the reservation for bit"
"I can help you with that" I followed him into the office next door where he was already speaking to somebody about my question

A smaller but older looking man sitting on his desk and working on his laptop turns to his left to face me

"So you are travelling?"
"And you are from?"
"Egyptian, but from Rhode Island"
"Oh wow and what brings you here?"
"Well I'm riding my skateboard across the country, but I wanted to live amongst the Apaches and learn about your culture for a little. So I was wanting to get permission to stay on the reservation"
"My name is Tao, this is Patrick, Santana and Jameson" pointing to each one. "Patrick can help you with your permit to stay on the reservation, he works for Game and Fish"

Patrick was the big man that first asked me if I needed any help. He was now sitting behind his desk across facing the entrance to the room.

"Well to stay on the reservation it is $10 a night. That is one of the ways we generate income for our community. The only other way to stay on the reservation is to be the guest of a tribal member"
"Wow, well, I'm on a very limited budget while travelling and I really don't have that kind of money. I would like to spend seven nights here and witness the Sunrise Dance Festival. Is there any other way? Maybe you could let it slide this one time. I could really sleep anywhere, I don't care, underneath any tree"
"Hmmm, well its the rule"
"Maybe you can take him in house" Tao sarcastically suggested
"Yeah, but I don't know if my mom would like that" Patrick seriously replied
"So what made you want to go on this trip?" Tao was now asking me
"Well I just needed a personal journey and I really wanted to visit the west coast. I had some money and my skateboard and decided, hey why not just skate?"
"And this was after college?"
"What did you study in college?"
"Entomology and microbiology. Insects and stuff"
"So you are an American?"
"I just ask because it would be more of an issue staying here if you weren't" I figured this anyway because the Indian reservations are all under the Department of the Interior, a federal agency. If I wanted to get anything done, I thought, I had to be completely open, transparent and honest. I had my passport.
"Well I have my passport if you would like to check it out"
"Ill have a look at it" Patrick blurts out

So I dig through my bag and give it to him. He flips through the pages curiously seeing the stamps of all the places I have been. I sit in the office for sometime longer while they carry on their work and while I wait for a deliberation like an accused waiting for the jury to walk back into the courtroom and read the verdict. I decide then to go to the bathroom. When I returned I sat for about 15 more minutes on my board, my back leaning against a filing cabinet, until Tao comes up with an awesome sounding suggestion.

"Oh I know where he could stay! Alice! She hosts exchange students sometimes. Maybe she would be interested in letting you stay. Then, because you are a guest of a tribal member, you wouldn't have to pay" He calls her but she doesn't answer. After about 30 minutes as I was eating some jerky and drinking some water that was generously given to me she calls back.

"Hey Alice" He talks some business with her first and then, the important stuff "Hey remember those students from Alaska you hosted a while back, would you be interested in doing it again?" Because she was on the phone so many things ran across my mind of what she could possibly say "Well I have this guy Omar Fahmy who is travelling across the country and wanting to stay the week here," "...Yeah he is here now...he is from Egypt...can you teach her to belly dance? (laughs)...he says you need to get your stomach muscles ready...(more laughs from all)...yeah...ok" And then he hung up.
"So Omar she said she would ask her husband and let me know. I know she will say yes though"

I waited for another half hour until an older Apache woman came in. Tao was her councilman from her district and told her about my story and if she was interested in hosting me. She offered Motel 6 by the casino saying it was $40/night. When she left Tao asked me about what I thought.

"Sometimes people don't really understand travel. Even I didn't until recently. Travel to me has become about learning about others which in turn teaches me about myself. If I were to stay at a motel how would I learn about the day to day activities of the Apache people, their culture and language. Through travel I have come to the conclusion that people are the same everywhere, except for the minor cultural differences which I am interested about"

10 minutes later Jameson who was sitting across from Patrick says that he spoke to Alice. She awaited me at 8PM. Since it was only 4 Tao suggested that Patrick show me around, then take me there. I thanked Tao so much, he gave me his number and told me if I needed anything to call. Me Patrick, and Jameson left in Patrick's white Chevy Equinox. Our first stop would be Patrick's real office at Game and Fish where he suggested I change and take a shower. I did and so many questions I had. Jameson did most of the talking. I could tell he was a respected man who knew lots about the Apache culture.

At Patrick's office we had some introductory but deep conversations. It started with the Apache creation story. (I want the reader to understand that this story was told me and I'm telling you this story which makes it already 2 degrees inaccurate so please if I make mistakes, it is my fault)

Apaches believe that God, Eucen, created the world. His son, Nayet Nazyiana was the slayer of monsters who killed off all the wicked animals of the earth. Eucen also created the first Apache, St Iglesia, or the White Painted Lady. She was told to gather water at a river and there she was struck by lightning four times and that was how life began. What really fascinated me about this story was the secret combo of lightning and water. In the 1950s an experiment was done by Miller/Urey which indeed theorized that when a small electric charge, representing lightning on pre-life earth was introduced to a water medium with inorganic compounds, the inorganic compounds formed into large organic compounds including the building blocks of DNA and certain amino acids. The Apaches knew this before science was even science. I also learned about the Gann, the 'angels' of the Apaches. Each represented an animal, the most important being the bear. They were human bodies with no faces in elaborate costumes and crowns.

Jameson and Patrick then took me to a place called the Holy Grail where some of the holiest ceremonies took place. There was a cactus at each of the four corners of the place. In the middle was a clearing with one tree in the center. Next to the tree, was an area with four 'crosses' that were painted black (symbolizing the universe and the beginning of time), yellow (representing the sun), blue (water), and white (wisdom and old age). The four colors were on each cross but each cross had a different segment painted a different color. You had to enter the area with the crosses from the east and great the sun and before exiting greet and leave back from the east. I couldn't take pictures of this holy place but I'll tell you that I no doubt felt an amazing energy there.

Patrick then invited me to have a hearty buffet meal at the casino and man did I stuff myself. He opened up to me a little and let me in on a little secret.

"You know, I have to tell you when you left for the bathroom at the tribal council, we joked that 'what if there was a bomb in his bag?"
"Haha, we let me tell you that as soon as I walked out I assumed just that. 'man they are probably gonna think I left a bomb in my bag'. But in all honesty I have never had any explosives training"
"We were joking, we just didn't know you and you are Egyptian"
"Man its all good, believe me at times I come to expect people to think this and say things like this. Don't think you are the first. Let me tell you something. When I intended to come into your reservation I wanted to know more about it so I asked people. The first was the librarian at Duncan. She strongly recommended I not go through at night because the Indians were 'crazy' and people have been kidnapped and shot there..."
"...That story she said probably didn't mention that, that missing white guy was part of a drug deal gone wrong. There were problems with the investigation because he was missing on our land and they didn't know whose jurisdiction it was"
"Exactly man, its a misunderstanding and ignorance. Its always more complicated than what people think. There is a reason. But anyway the woman at the Chamber of Commerce also told me basically the the people on the reservation are a bunch of crazy drunks. Did you think I thought that was true? No. Its just ignorance. Do you really think all my people are terrorists? Or even most? Even the ones that are, are terrorists for a deeper reason than what we know or think we know. All of us are pinned with a certain stereotype because of ignorance. Every race, even white people. People are the same everywhere, believe me. My people are no more terrorists than yours are drunk savages"

It was funny that even the Native Americans who themselves were called terrorists defending their land were now returning that deed upon me. It made me realize again that people are truly the same everywhere and it was the bullshit media that spread mistrust among us.

We left the casino and Patrick took me to my host family. When I walked in I met Robert, a much older man sitting across from a giant flat screen TV watching the MTV VMAs. I couldn't but laugh in my mind about the irony. Robert was a Choctaw and Alice an Apache. They let me stay in a trailer fit for kings this week. I have so much to learn, so many people to meet. I love the Apaches who have been so kind and hospitable to me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lyrics From the Pod

Here it is, I promised some of my playlist. It has gotten me through the worst. Music is my life.
This is the first part.

"I remember long time ago, you left me standing in the doorway crying. I said please don't leave me, you just didnt pay me no mind, kept right on going and I had to find a brand new love. I said try me, you just didnt seem, kept on moving. I said it was a mans wrold but I stepped right back and gave you credit. Said it wouldn't be nothing without a woman or a girl but that didnt phase you baby. Even when I told you I lost someone. You said go on, go on, gon find yourself a brand new love. I kept makin it baby, then you wanna come back said you want me to take care of you. Just cant seem to reach you baby. I kept right on movin. Baby there was a time when you told me I was your one and only love. Free at last. Free. Free. Free. Im over you"
"Bewildered" by James Brown

"Where you get your colly, Mr collyman, the smell just a nice up the place. Is it an ital colly outta virgin lamp, the smell is as good as the taste"
"Collyman" by Bunny Wailer

"God has many names. Dont judge noone according to the name they choose. If they speak in love, it will bring understanding. God is love"
"Many Names" by John Brown's Body

"Sun is shining, weather is sweet"
"Sun is Shining" by Bob Marley and the Wailers

"Dont go on changing, tryin to please me, you never let me down before. I would not leave you in times of trouble. Ill take the good times, Ill take the bad times, Ill take you just the way you are"
"Just the Way You Are" by Barry White

"Im your mama, Im your daddy, Im that nigga in the alley. Im your doctor when you need, want some coke have some weed. You know me, Im your friend. Your main boy, thick and thin, Im your pusherman...Silent life of crime. A man of our circumstance a vicitim of ghetto deman. Feed me money for stock and Ill you trip for a while. Insecure from the past. How long can a good thing last?"
"Pusherman" by Curtis Mayfield

"Oh lord, please lord, good lord, got to give I strength to face another day"
"Poor Man's Prayer" by John Brown's Body

"Crazy, crazy. And my crazyiness is my choice. I scream it as loud as I can. Capitals-no, no, no passports. Borders - no, no, no blockage between humans and this is my guilt. No north, no south, your nationality is your heart. Go and love and the world will love you back. Cancel lines of height, erase the lines of width. No white, no black we are all from the same Earth"
"Magnoun" (Crazy) by Wust El Balad Band - translation of Egyptian lyrics

"They just keep holding me, wont let go. I need a hammer to hammer them down. I need a rammer to ram them down. They keep teasing me, provoking me, but this is all I know"
"Hammer" by Bob Marley and the Wailers

"Theres nothing you can do that cant be done, nothing you can sing that cant be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. Its easy. Nothing you can make that cant be made. Noone you can save that cant be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. All you need is love"
"All You Need is Love" by The Beatles

"Everybody's misused him. Ripped him up and abused him. Another junkie plan, pushin dope for the man. A terrible blow, but thats how it goes"
"Freddie's Dead" by Curtis Mayfield

"Cold ground was my bed last night, rock was my pillow too. Talkin blues. But Im gonna stare in the sun, let the rain shine in my eyes. Im gonna take one step more"
"Talkin' Blues" by Bob Marley and the Wailers

"Cool down your temper Mr Cop. Put a smile on your face while passin through"
"Mr Cop" by Gregory Isaacs

"I said who you and what you wanna do with my people? I beg you let my people go and then we gon tell them so. You think that all is well? But I know you're living in hell. Yeah man we must break that spell"
"Living Hell" by Junior Kelly

"Shine eye girl is a trouble to a man"
"Shine Eye Girl" by Barrington Levy

"Oooowee it feels so nice it happens everytime. When the music starts to play, Im picking up a good vibe and I feel no pain"
"Good Vibes" by John Brown's Body

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 103: September 14, 2009, Bylas to San Carlos (28.6 mi)

Man did I have an adventure today! Im not even bothering to write it in my journal first, Im just gonna tell it to you now. So Im in the Indian Reservation now, chillin with the coolest people in the planet. Already met a few ladies and a few guys (of who Paul insists on being my guardian in my time here)

So the day started out with me really thinking of how Im going to convince a native community who mistrusts outsiders that I come in respect and appreciation and want to live amongst them and learn. I thought of the best way to do it. Befirending some skaters at the park or going to the tribal council and asking permission from elders. I didn't know. But I skated and todays skate wasn't too easy. Big hills, lots of ups and downs and the road seriously changed from at some points to Texas shitty, to the smoothest most silent shoulder I have skated so far. I saw my first cactus today ( I mean the kind that first comes to mind when you think of cactus, not prickly pear, agave or yucca...). Made me happy and I had to give it the salute. The day was seriously in the 80s at 900 and I was burning early on. But it was all good because Peridot was at mile marker 270 and I was at mile marker 273 at about 1020 and then it just happened again...haha

A big Nissan Titan pulls up ahead and an Apache girl sticks her head out and asks if I needed a ride. This was my ticket to introduce myself to the natives and I didn't heistate

"We saw you walking up the hill with your stick, looking like Moses going the other way this morning."
"Hahaha, yeah Moses...This yucca stem is my best friend. Its a paddle, a brake, a walking stick and a weapon against the dogs that chase me down the road"
"Im Michelle, this is Sue and that is Tina"
"It is a pleasure to meet you, and Im Omar"
"I bought you some things that you can have if you would like" She hands me a bag. Inside was a ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of Doritos and 1 liter of Aquafina
"Oh thank you so much, this is what I need right here" pointing to the water. I drank it all
"So where are you coming from?"
"Like where did I start today or where am I from?"
"Hehehe, both"
"Well today I left Bylas. Im Egyptian, but from Rhode Island. I started skating from Memphis"
"Woow, I Egyptian?! I always wanted to be with an Egyptian"
"Haha, well here I am"
"What if I want him too" Sue in the passenger seat blurts out
"Hey, I got a lot of love for everybody"
"So where are you going?"
"Actually today I want to go to Peridot and maybe live amongst the Apaches for a little and learn about their culture and language. I respect them very much."
"Wow, welll you came to the right place, we will show you around"

And that was that. Again, I feel so blessed it came to right to me, I didnt have to look. The kind ladies showed me around as they passed around 40s, clearly sort of intoxicated. They taught me that Peridot is actaully a precious green gem. Geronimo was the name of an old respected Apache leader. They taught me two words, "Akreya" which means thank you and "Tawotaya'a" which means how are you. They showed me an area where something called the Sunrise Dance Festival takes place, which is the coming of age ceremony for a girl that takes place almost every week. One had just finished, but they told me about an upcoming one the next week. Michelle also bought me a righteous, righteous Indian taco which was fucking delicous. The beans on the bottom tasted just like Egyptian "fool" my parents preffered breakfast. And then the good part. Michelle decided to go to the casino and buy some more alcohol. The intoxicated other ladies of course didn't mind. So we drove. At the Chevron Sue and Tina had a little confrontation and security had to be called after Sue walked away with the truck keys. On our way out on US-70 heading back to Peridot, at exactly mile marker 262 we were pulled over by an Arizona State Police Officer. Clearly he was called by the security. They quickly scrambled to chug the 40s that were open and hide the ones that weren't.

"Have you ladies been drinking today"
Michelle: "No sir", Tina (driving): "No sir", Sue: "I have"
"I can clearly smell the alcohol. It stinks in here"
I decided I should just stay quiet and see what happens. In the end Tina was arrested for driving under the influencem Michelle had a warrant for her arrest in Globe, AZ but the since she was a Native and he pulled us on the reservation he couldn't arrest her. The problem arose when who would drive the truck back. He wanted to tow us away. Fuck that I thought, so I shouted out to the officer "Sir, I haven't had a sip"
"Well why didn't you say something then. Step out and let me run you real quick"

He did, I was clean. I ended up driving the drunk ladies back with Sue passed out then waking up and asking me "Hey, why are you driving my truck?" I just laughed, what a predicament I got myself into. The officer was a real nice guy and it could have been much worse. I dropped the ladies back and continued on my journey. I kept thinking, should I go into San Carlos or not. At the intersetion with 170, the road that takes you into town I made a final decision to do it. Took the road and 4 miles into San Carlos.

Man the natives are awesome. Proud but kind. So far they have treated me well. There is a real problem with poverty here. Of course that leads to lots of drinking and lots of drugs so Im gonna have to really watch my shit, but I can handle myself. I think Im gonna hang here until the Sunrise festival next weekend and check it out, then bounce out.

Oh and I only got 80 bucks left. I left Austin with 300 and it lasted me this much. I gotta keep my shit tight for a bit and Im definately gonna have to get a job in Phoenix.

Day 102: September 13th 2009, Safford to Bylas (33 or 43 mi, most prob 33)

Ok, Im starting to get sketched out. Today was too easy. And then something wierd, 10 miles - I don't know what happened to 10 miles. They just went missing. I feel like all this goodness is going to have to be balanced out by something real shitty soon. I just feel it. Its 953 in the fucking am and Im done for the day. It started with me geting up at my Budget Inn room at about 6. Had an apple and a banana and checked the weather channel; 40% rain. I left at 630 and the first mile marker I saw was 338.

Really a nice two nights of rest. I felt well balanced when I started the day. I was clean, its real good to be clean. I took care of the fungus on my toe that insists on coming back and bought some medicine for the tinea on my shoulders. I updated the blog with all the pictures and it felt good to catch up in that regard. I did nothing but lay in bed and stuff myself with food until I couldn't move and in 2 nights I took about five shits (sometimes on the road I can go for about 5 days without one shit, but I only have one meal a day, sometimes even none). Anyway I was thinking about how I wished I could watch Ace Ventura last night and while flipping through the channels, the first movie was on! I went to sleep a happy man. Oh. and I also Wal-Marted it and reloaded on DEET, denatured alcohol for the stove and a couple of packets of Knorr dried food.

So, first mile marker 338. Road was sort of shitty in Safford but it improved after Thatcher (which is really a part of Safford). Again a slight tailwind was at my back and a very gentle slope down. I still had to kick but every kick translated into good pushes. It was only 724 and I found myself at mile marker 325. The point is the next mile marker I came upon was 314. It was a glimpse from far and I didn't really believe my shitty vision. I got closer and closer and it still said 314. What the hell? Was I really skating that fast or did I just get telported by aliens? I still didn't believe it and thought that the Arizona DOT must have messed up, so I waited until the next mile marker...313. I was so confused so I took a break and decided to check my map. Safford was at mile marker 340, that was something I remembered. The next town was Fort Thomas and according to my map it was 23 miles from Safford which was supposed to be at 317, I know I hadn't passed it. Since 10 miles dissappeared it should be at 307. Sure enough it was and it was 8 something when I got there. Even more confused, I kept going. My destination for the day was Geronimo and it was 5 miles up. I got there at 840 and posed to the sign screaming "Geeeee-rr-o-nimoooo!" with two thumbs up. The town was deserted and less than a quarter mile long. Im not going to sleep here I thought. Off to Bylas and at exactly 9 I was there, the first town in the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. I really don't want know what to do with myself.

I plan on getting into the reservation and trying to live amongst the ntives for a few if Im lucky enough for them to accept me. The librarian at Duncan told me I would get shot and the woman at the Safford Chamber of Commerce told me how messed up the Indians are, and recommended I stay away. Fuck that, Ill find out for myself.

One more thing. I keep meaning to mention this but keep forgetting. On the second leg of my Arkansas skate, as I was skating on the empty road I came upon a Corrections Facility van with two prisoners picking up trash on the road. When one of them saw me, he stared at me with disbelief, tapped the other on the shoulder and pointed at me. They both couldn't believe their eyes. Freedom.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 100: September 11th, Duncan to Safford (43 mi)

If I said that today was the best skate I have had yet would it be too much? Maybe, but who gives a shit. Today was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Take the Artesia-Cloudcroft day and multiply that by three, then take that and multiply it by two just because I'm in Arizona and thats how good I feel.

I guess Arizona doesn't like daylight savings time so I got into another time zone. The time here is the same as Pacific time; the sun rises at 530 not 630 so I was up and going at 6 after having a Snickers bar for breakfast. The day didn't really start easy. It was good 10 mile uphill skate/walk to about the Graham county line. But then...oh man and then,

A tailwind slightly hit and I pushed down and I really felt the energy translate into cruises. The hills down and the smooth roads, the mountains and rock formations. It was so beautiful. "Aaarrriiizzzooonnnaaa!!" The road, well, I had it almost all to myself. I don't know how fast I was going, not fast enough where I had to carve or stress but not slow enough where I had to put my foot down once. For 10 miles I just stood, watching the mountains pass around me, feeling the energy, the peace. I had to stop. It was only 917. I sat atop a little hill by the road, turned my ipod off, listened and looked. Wow. That was the only thought that came to me then, just wow. Every struggle I have had last week in New Mexico was eliminated at that moment. Every negative thought was canceled out at that point. Every thought of just quitting after the stresses I had to endure for the past week, fuck it, these last 10 miles just 10 miles changed it all. I remembered why I was skating. I sat and ate some peanuts for about 20 minutes, so happy. And it didn't end there.

I kept cruising when I got back on the road. All 20 miles left to Safford I was in awe, just going down and not a thought on the mind. Mental cleansing. Miles, who's counting them? The mile markers passed too fast. I got to Safford at exactly 1123. I'm so happy but after this righteous mental rejuvenation, I need physical rejuvenation. At the chamber of commerce I asked for a cheap motel around and the kind lady guided me to Budget Inn. And the kind Indian (not Native American) owner let me stay for two nights for $35.

Oh man. Peace entails so many aspects and everyday I get a little taste of it. No doubt this trip is an emotional roller coaster at times but it all happens for the best, this I'm sure of. It's days like this, that make it happen. My stuff is in the room. I'm gonna find a ride back up the mountain and do it all over again.

Day 99: September 10th 2009, Lordsburg, NM to Duncan, AZ (38 mi)

A fine entry into Arizona. But again the day didn't begin with a good start. The road was Texas shitty, that bad. Cracks, roughness, you know-all the good stuff. I had to walk from early on US-70 west. I walked. The whole way until about 5 miles before the Arizona border, I walked. It took me until 240MST to get to 5 miles east of the Arizona border. It was long, hot, painful, but I'll spare the bitching today, because blah blah blah blah. It's hard, it's difficult, I feel like shit doing it, but when I'm done for the day, you know what? Its all good, because I made it through another day. Besides, I'm sick of writing about how hard my day was. This past week has been pretty repetitive, and I'm sure I've said all I can say. So instead, I'll share some of the thoughts that crossed my mind on this 8 hour walk.

Well my first thought happened to be with the first song selection my ipod gave me and it was "Body Moves" by Yellowman. When that song played, I remembered one awesome summer day. Me and Matt were supposed to be doing some landscaping but for a summer day, the waves were too good. Monahan's was breaking, solid chest high waves. We decided early on in the day that, fuck work, we could make up the lawns later, there is no way we would waste waves like this. So we went to his house, picked up our boards and had an amazing summer surf session. Nobody out. Just me, Matt, Beau and Sam. That was a good day and it put a smile on my face. I don't know why that song reminded me of that day specifically but I'm happy it did. We surfed until the late afternoon that day, not a worry on our minds, not even work. As a matter of fact our baby blue truck was parked with its trailer right on the dock, "A Cut Above Lawn Care", but we were taking care of the waves.

I wondered why people never picked me up, though I came to later realize that I was happy nobody even attempted to pull over, even when I stuck my thumb out. The feeling of getting there by myself is so much more rewarding. I thought, even if my own mother had passed me as I was on the highway, she would never even remotely think that, that was her own son. All the people that have approached me were the people that saw themselves as equal as everybody. Whether they were doing it for God, the country man that was confident of his land or the hippie that wanted to spread love (I only say hippie so you can understand the kind of person I'm referring to, though I really hate that word). It was never the upper middle class or upper class guy in his BMW, Range Rover or Porsche. Those people actually always tended to steer into a lane as far away from me as possible. They see me as a potential threat and for them the risk is too large. Our system as capitalism creates, a completely classist society. Inevitably we are judged by what we possess and a man like me looks like I ain't got shit. That is a sad thought, especially knowing that, that is the way my own mother is.

She cares too much about what kind of handbag she carries or what kind of car she drives, how many homes she owns. Her best days, she would come home and brag about how the clerk at Macy's loved her authentic Louis Vitton bag or a person somewhere told her of how young she looked because of all the creams she puts on her face. The jewelry she flaunts, I hate it. And she is kind to the poor, but too many times I have heard her talk down about them to me when they were not around. My mother, who I love very much, gets pissed me when I tell her that I just want to surf or I want to live in Africa. She won't speak to me for days, because she would be so frustrated with my wishes. It is never about 'Omar you can do whatever makes you happy', its always 'Omar go to med school, go to law school, go to business school' something thats only intention is to make tons of money. "I didn't invest all this money in you for you to be a skater". Thats what kills me, I wish I could just make them understand. Even graduating with a major in Microbiolgy/Entomology (because I love insects) and a minor in chemistry is looked down upon in my family. That is why Im doing this, and they have no idea about it. I do not need their negativity and doubts on my trip, in the same way my trip to Africa started and ended. While they think I have a good job in San Diego, I'm living and learning. Sure I'm not gaining financially, but I can look back since the first day and see the positive change, spiritually, emotionally and just becoming a better person the way I see fit. To them, that means almost nothing, but to me, you should only judge a person according to their heart.

A best doctor is an old experienced doctor, the best engineer is an old experienced engineer, and so on and so on and the best human being is the most experienced in life. It goes back to what the curator of the Tunica museum told me at the start of my journey "A person is the sum of all their experiences". Though I know I will never be perfect, because it is impossible to go through every single experience, I will strive to always be a better person, a better listener, to be more understanding. I know I will never reach that point, but that is the source of any person's humbleness, knowing that they will never be perfect. I know I am no better that anybody. It kills me to keep lying to my parents about my fake job in San Diego, but that is the only way to keep doing what I'm doing, maybe one day they will understand. That is something I strongly hope for.

"What the hell am I going to do when I get to San Diego?" That occupied some time, but I never came up with an answer.

"These roads fucking suck". Why in America, who people form so many countries see as a perfect place, does a road like this exist? All cracked, loose gravel, rough. Oh, then I remembered that money is being drained from our infrastructure to fund wars, private corporations that feed on disasters, kill people, buy weapons, test missiles for the sake of 'fostering democracy' and developing other countries. Sorry to get political but for me it all ties together.

The last five miles in Arizona were downhill, straight downhill. The road was terrible until Arizona, but at least I was going down. Aaaaah, Arizona, brings back good memories. So beautiful and indeed it is. And the road was smooth as butter. And the people in Duncan are so fucking nice! Every single car, no lie, either waved or smiled. Even the sheriff pulled me over skating through town and he is probably, single handedly, the coolest cop I ever talked to. I couldn't stop smiling at his accent and comments and together we shared some good laughs. He is such a good guy. Arizona, I love you. Eating acid here some summers ago, my first in the desert, completely changed the way I view the desert. I's so happy to be back in this beautiful place. I get such good vibes here, from the environment around me and the people that live here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day 98: September 9th 2009. Mile 66 to Lordsburg (46 mi)

I would usually be ecstatic to have covered this distance, but as I stare at this puffy white cummulus above me, I'm trying to think of how I really feel.

Today was no easy skate. I would say it has been my hardest day since Tyler, Texas so far. The last 11 miles were daunting and brutal; the longest of any 11 miles I have ever skated. I woke up at 630 ate my chocolate chip cookies and was on the road by 7. Surprisingly, I felt good. My ipod started me off with "Sailin On" by the Toots and the Maytals; good choice. Exit 55 came up quick, I was there at about 810. It made me feel real good, and I thought at this rate I should get to Lordsburg by noon. And that's where I made my mistake. At exit 49 things really started to slow down. As usual the weight on my back was paralyzing, the sun was heating up and of course nothing else but a slight headwind was picking up. This time I decided I wasn't going to rest, but I would walk. And I walked and walked, pushing my bag (which was on top of my board) with a yucca stem (which is so much easier to steer and control than pulling it with rope). By the time I got to mile 39 it was already past noontime. My knees felt like they needed to be popped out of their sockets, my ankles were as swollen as plump peaches and the tendon that ran the length of my left foot was definitely sprained. I felt the need to pick things up, and feeling the push on my back giant 18 wheelers were giving me as they pass, made me hop back on my board. The next 5 miles were beautiful. I was cruising again and plenty 18 wheelers passed me, pushing me like I was being shot out of a barrel. I even pumped for a bit. When I got to exit 34 my stomach started cramping up, a first. It was 147 and I was trying to catch my breath beneath the shade of the overpass. I could see Lordsburg but it seemed so far away. I pushed for the next 5 miles with everything I had, but it seemed like I was going nowhere. I had to lay out and find some shade, but I couldn't so I just stopped on the side, underneath the blazing sun. It caused salty sweat to trickle into my eyes, burning them so that I couldn't open them.

7 miles I told myself, 7 miles, I can do this. But I pushed, slow soft pushes that just barely moved me. I fantasized about a dollar drink at McDonald's. I could refill it with Powerade, water, Coke, orange juice, whatever I wanted, however many times I wished. Oh the cold drink going down my cottonmouth, how refreshing it would be. But I was only next to a sign that reminded me I was 6 miles away. I pushed but I had nothing in me. I hoped that someone would feel for me as I now walked slow with my head held down, crouched like the hunchback of Notre Dame, since my shoulders couldn't life the weight anymore. I knew I didn't even have the coordination to steer my board.
"Why?!!!" I angrily screamed. "Give me a fucking sign! Give me a fucking break!" but who could hear me.

I was still 4 miles away and it was 330. I threw everything down and put my head down in disappointment and defeat. I had to keep going, for the sake of the dollar drink at micky dees, I pushed again. I could now see its famous "M" above all else. It said exit 22, but I was only at exit 24. 2 more miles. Push, push, push, breathe, "fuckkk!", push, push, push, breathe, "come on!!!". "I'm gonna get there, I'm gonna get there, I'm gonna get there" "Almost there"

Finally at 409 I was inside McDonald's, refilling my dollar cup for the third time with blue Powerade. Man it felt so good, the best Powerade I ever had. My fingers were locking up again like Tyler; I lost too much salts. Gotta rehydrate and rejuvenate. After about 13 refills with all the the different fountain drinks I headed to the library. A different problem uploading pictures this time. They didn't block my blog like Deming, but blocked pop ups so I couldn't post pictures. Fuckin ay.

The white puffy clouds are now turning into thundering, gray rain clouds. Tomorrow is a grand entry in Arizona. The real desert begins. Oh man I wonder what's in store. Arizona here I come, can you hear me calling?