It shouldn’t have to be a war not to kill yourself, but sometimes it is. The disgrace had been a long time coming and by now there was no way of getting out from under it. It felt like I’d been chased down a dead-end alley and could only run from side to side. Still, I dusted off the credit card and bought a one-way bus ticket to Miami. From there, it would have to be Colombia, or anywhere cheap enough to rent a room and begin the desperate search for funding once again. It certainly wasn’t going to come from art, but that’s where it all would go to if I could manage to find it. For me, by now, there was no other way to live.
As a young man I made my intention clear – to travel the world and write songs for the rest of my life. This only served to amuse my friends, back when I had such a thing, and depress my parents. All I had to do was mention a new song I’d just completed to see the light go out in everyone’s eyes. Was I that bad? I didn’t think so. I listen back to the old recordings now, and concede it’s hard to hear much promise in them, but isn’t persistence the key to life? How many of us come out of the womb fully-formed?
It became clear early on that no one was going to share my enthusiasm for music making, and that was fine. Over the years there would be no greater incentive for carrying on then that very same lack of support. All of my drive was born out of defiance. A greater, and chronic, problem, however, would be the lack of funds, not only to create, but to live. Endowed with a decent work ethic, but no marketable skills, I took whatever job I needed to do to get by at the time. As soon I’d saved enough to buy even the smallest freedom, I’d be off again.
How does one travel without much money? At first, my idea had been to live out of the back of a pickup truck and roll from town to town like a gypsy. What I immediately discovered, was that there was almost nowhere you could park for free. If you weren’t in a designated pay zone, the police might pull up at any time, knocking at the window and asking to see identification. You had to operate with the stealth of a thief, looking for cul-de-sacs or parking lots with other cars where you could try to blend in. If forced to pay for a camp site, there were places where it was almost as expensive as a hotel. Then there was the issue of gas and the endless string of repairs that inevitably came with navigating an unreliable relic across a vast expanse of land.
It was misfortune that led me to discover Greyhound. I’d had a climbing accident at Yosemite and needed to travel to Eugene, Oregon, the place of my last employment, to have surgery done on my foot. No one was available to drive me there, so I took the bus from Southern California to Oregon, my destroyed foot just wrapped in a thin layer of gauze. Through that trip I discovered it was possible to buy a bus pass, for a week, two weeks, a month, however long you wanted, and ride any bus you wanted from city to city during that time. There were a few years where I saw much of the United States that way, sleeping on a bus at night, then jumping out to explore a new city during the day.
After recovering from my surgery, I’d bought my first Greyhound pass and used it to travel to Denver, Georgia, and New Orleans, where a friend of mine was waiting with an apartment we’d agreed to share. I’d never really been to the South and had no idea what to expect in New Orleans. I remember getting off the bus and going in search of the Saint Charles Streetcar, only to get caught in a tropical squall and drenched to the bone, with just my suitcase, guitar, and cane. Now here I was, over thirty years later, back at the Union Passenger Terminal, in many ways worse off than I’d been back in the day, waiting for a bus to Miami, with a one-way ticket in my hand.