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'I Think of You'
Traveling Jeanie Discusses Travel with a Hobo
© 2021 James LaFond
8/8/21, Pittsburgh, PA, while taking a break from doing yard work with Punky's retired friend, Jeanie.
“There is this wonderful Tim Robins novel titled Even Cowgirls Get the Blues [1]. The main character is a woman, a model with large thumbs and hitchhikes as a way of life. She has post office boxes around the country and when her boss needs to get in touch with her he sends a post card to all six boxes. This made me think of you, traveling around, and how one would get in touch with you—by text, I suppose. It seems a nice life. Have you always wanted to travel, in any capacity, if not by train?”
Jeanie had agreed to draw a cover for the children's book, The Servants of Woodbridge Manor, in exchange for me doing some landscaping.
I answered, something like this:
“All I ever wanted was to be left alone. I did, at age 18, have a desire to walk from Texas to the tip of Chili, with the hope that I would be killed in the process. Then life intervened.
“For 38 years I worked in Baltimore City as a grocer, usually 6 to 7 days a week and rarely took a vacation. If I did not cash in a vacation, I took it reading and resting at home. All I ever wanted was a small house with a library and reading room and to be left alone. But I was hunted from the streets of the city of my birth by packs of young black men, supported by their predatory police allies. On a Monday night in December of 2017 two pairs of men tried to do me harm on my way to work. We were the only five souls across 12 miles of City and County other than the bus driver who piloted the bus empty but for me. I quit working that next morning and had to sustain myself on writing alone.
“My income was thence reduced from $9k to $1.2k a year. This meant that I would have to rent a room in the ghetto from a couple young black girls and that all of my belongings that I left behind anytime I left would be taken by their boy friends and that I would soon be murdered on the street carrying all my worldly possessions of value.
“My library was already gone and I was getting old and fat and unable to fight off my hereditary foes much longer. At the same time readers were offering me lodging if I finally left the worst city in America. So, I took them up on it and here I am on this disorienting merry-go-round, spending more time traveling each season of each year than I had spent traveling in the first 55 years of my misbegotten life.
“I will never travel outside of the country because I cannot tolerate that level of police control at airports. If the trains get that way, I'll start hitchhiking and hiking until my deteriorating health compels me to stop moving. It is a game of musical chairs, as a friend recently noted. This man was willing to let me live in Baltimore for free on the condition that I play a certain war game. But I now have obligations to visit friends spread across the country that hates me—I'm homesick always.
“Traveling was unwanted and is stressful for me and never held any allure other than suicide when I was young, and now, as I expire, my social suicide. My only purpose for living is writing and to help those people—like Punky here—who have helped me to wander about by giving me a bed or a couch to sleep on.”
Jeanie then said, “Well, Jimmy, you are a hard worker, an interesting man—and you're EASY—easy to get along with in this time when we argue and complain so much in this country. So my door is open as well. I place a high value on landscaping and love my plants and I'm getting too old to deal with the heat.”
-1. I may well be off on my recollection from yesterday about the author and title. Jeanie is a sharp-witted Old Dame who has traveled the world and is widely read.
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