Wandering in Wonderland

In November I’d ordered a camper shell for my truck, and it finally came in. I drove to town to drop the truck off for 2-1/2 hours until it was installed. So as is my custom, I went out to wander the streets and see what the inhabitants were up to.

As is also my custom, I bought a pack of cigarettes to distribute among the homeless. I’ve written about this oddity in a few of my previous posts, “Fixing The Brakes“, “Fixing The EGR“, “The Walking Wounded“, and “Once More Into The Breach, Dear Friends“. So let me invite you to come along, take another walk with me on the wild side.

I start out down the sidewalk. I’m walking along, and I come across a man on a bike. I say “Hi”, he says “Hi”. I say “Can I offer you a smoke?” He says “No, I got smart about that.”

I ask how he’s doing. To my astonishment, he says “I’m an amnesiac. But now, I’m able to remember my name!”

“Man,” I say, “what was it like? How did you remember it?”

“It was like a window opened, and I saw a house. I saw a barn, the kind with the two doors that swing out.”

“And you remembered your name?”

“My name came back to me. My name is George Albertson. How do you do?”

I allowed that I was doing just fine. I said “What else did you remember?”

“I remembered some other names. I remembered the name ‘Cynthia'”. And he added in a tone of tragic wistfulness, “I think I was married to her, but I can’t remember” … his voice trailed off.

Oh, my dear man …

He smiled again. “I’m happy to meet you. I know my name!” I said, “So do I. You’re George”. He gave me a foolish grin. I patted him on the shoulder. He rode away on his bike.

Walking further, I saw a man mining the green garbage bins on the street, the ones with the recycleables. He had a big plastic bag full of something light. When I came up to him, I could see he was mining for aluminum.

“Offer you a smoke?” I asked? “Sure”, he said. We exchanged names. His name was William.

I gave him three cigarettes. Then another three. Then another three.

“Why are you doing this?”, he asked. Looking a bit confused, he added “Do I know you?”

I said no, we’d never met. He said, “So why are you giving these to me?”

I gave him the short version. I said I’d been walking down the dirt road in a remote African village once in the heat of the day. In every window and every door, people were watching me. They were dressed in rags, only a few had shoes, their houses were made of mud. And I had a most curious thought.

The thought was, “I’ve won”.

I explained to him that what I’d realized was that everything that those good folks dreamed of owning, everything they ever wanted to have, I had already. Shoes? I had the pair I had on, plus my good shoes back at the hotel, and my winter boots at home, and my fishing boots. I had a closet full of clothes. I had a good job that took me around the world. I had a car and a truck and a fishing boat. I had things they never heard of—a bank account, credit cards. Everything they fantasized about, I had it already.

I’d won. I didn’t have to fight any more to get more stuff. I’d arrived. I had enough and more.

And of course, that brought up another curious thought—what do I do now that I’ve won?

Over time, my conclusion was simple—I’d give it away. Not so much the physical stuff, although that too, but mostly my knowledge, my skills. When someone wanted to learn something, I’d give my time to teach them. When someone wanted a new job, I’d help them get it. I’d give it away without thought of recompense or reward. The reward would be in the doing.

And so that’s why I was walking down the street and giving him cigarettes.

He thought about that for a while. He said “I’ve had something like that happen to me, only it was …”

… there was a pause …

… and then, to my surprise, he simply froze. He went into a curious rictus, just stopped stock-still in the middle of his sentence.

He stayed like that for maybe thirty seconds. Then he shook his head, and looked a bit confused, like he’d just awakened and wasn’t sure where he was.

So I didn’t let on that there was anything out of the ordinary. Instead, I asked him “So, how did you end up here today?” It’s a great question for the homeless. Some will tell me the long chain of events that led to them being homeless. Others, like him, tell me the events of the day that led them to be there talking to me.

He said “I was just walking down a rough side street looking for cans to sell, and this giant monster of a methhead came out of a crack house.”

I broke up laughing. After being told the wondrous opening line “I’m an amnesiac and now I remember my name” by the last guy, William had just handed me another great line. I said “William, that line could start out a radical short story. What happened?”

He said “The guy was naked to the waist, three hundred pounds, stone bald on top, but with long hair around the sides and a long beard. He started screaming at me that I was on HIS STREET, and I better get off his street!”

“What did you do?”, I asked.

“I didn’t say a word. I just backed up, nice and slow, and then turned and walked back out here to the street where you met me.”

“Go figure,” I replied. “At least you got out of it without any trouble. Well done!” And the conversation continued.

“So, are you sleeping rough?”, I asked, meaning sleeping out in the weather or in a tent, not a house. But he took it a different way.

“I can hardly sleep much,” he said in a subdued voice. He looked around warily. “They’re watching me all the time, I can feel their eyes. I toss and turn.”

And suddenly, again he went silent. He closed his eyes and took up a curious posture, standing on one foot with the other knee raised. He lifted up his bag of cans to one side with one arm, and put his other arm out to the other side. Then he began a slow movement, stretching, readjusting his arms, shifting his raised knee, and gradually repositioning his body.

Watching him, I suddenly realized that he was acting out the uneasy way that he slept. The amazing thing was, the whole thing lasted well over half a minute, and he did it all standing on one foot with closed eyes.

I stood silent, riveted.

Then it ended as quickly as it began, and he was back again. I said “It must be tough sleeping like that”, and he agreed.

We spoke for a bit longer. I wished him well, said I hoped he got some good sleep, and I walked on. I found the rough side street with the crack house, just like he’d described.

I reckoned I’d skip meeting the meth-fueled man-mountain … I walked on.

It was about time to turn around, so I crossed the street … four lanes, busy traffic. Wait for the break and jaywalk like crazy.

As soon as I started walking back, I saw a curious thing on the sidewalk. I thought it was a torn-down advertising banner or something.

But it wasn’t a banner. It was a large strong cloth bag.

So I took it as an omen. I keep my eyes out for omens. What kind of omen was this one?

Well, it was the kind of omen that says it’s been too long since I’ve spent any time picking up MOOP.

I learned about MOOP one time at Burning Man. MOOP stands for “Matter Out Of Place”. It’s not junk or trash, it’s just stuff that’s where it shouldn’t be. And my job was to put it where it should be.

I gotta say, I was amazed at the variety of different things that folks throw out along a street. Some stuff, like this pair of muddy wet kid’s pants, I picked up with my Leatherperson …

There were bottles, containers, plastic bags, things I didn’t inquire too deeply about, most of which I didn’t want to pick up with my bare hands, but that was all I had that would pick up most of the stuff. However, I did use the Leatherdude for the plethora of covid masks.

There was one thing I didn’t worry about picking up, though. It stated right on it that it was safe to pick up because it was “SEALED FOR FRESHNESS”.

So I got back to the camper shop. My camper and lumber rack were in the process of completion.

I told the guys behind the counter what I’d been doing, and asked if I could dump my load into their garbage cans. They said sure. Here’s the pile.

I still had an hour and a half to fill. I never have “time to kill”. Gave that up a while ago. I have “time to fill”, so I filled it walking the other way on the street. Yep. More MOOP. But after picking it up for a number of blocks, I came across a sign.

I was quite certain that I could keep the MOOP gathering under fifteen miles per hour, so I took a left. I also hoped there would be less MOOP … and indeed there was. Sorta.

The path went alongside a lovely little creek, where I came across a most elegant blue heron …

And the path indeed was MOOP free. But of course, life is what it is. One thing I learned from living for 20 years on small tropical islands is:

The Universe doesn’t really care in the slightest what I think should happen next.

So of course, just when I was ready to turn around and go back to get my truck, I found this:

It all fit into my bag.

About that time I finished drinking the bottle of water I was carrying, and to my amusement, I realized that fortunately, I didn’t have to go far to throw the empty bottle away.

And with that, I drifted back to the camper shop. I put the bag, MOOP and all, into the garbage can. Here’s how it looked before it made it inside.

And after that, I probably used up half a container of hand sanitizer doing just what the name implies.

Oh, yeah. I did find one useful thing from having my eyes on the ground. I found a lovely necklace for our 2-year-old granddaughter. I stuck it into an empty water bottle, filled it up about a quarter full of hand sanitizer, left it in there overnight, washed it and dried it. No use taking chances … today she told “It has shells on it, Papa! It’s pretty! Thank you!”, and my heart melted.

And here’s the finished product at the end of my most curious afternoon …

Said it before, I’ll say it again.

I’m the luckiest man alive.

With the wish that all of your days be full of joy, surprise, amnesiacs, un-disinfected bracelets, and amazement, I remain,

Yr. Ob’t. Svt.,

w.

19 thoughts on “Wandering in Wonderland

  1. Correction, you are one of the luckiest men alive. I too am a member of that fraternity. Welcome back to the internet, you were away for too long!

    Like

  2. I check here every day and recently I have been disappointed because there was nothing new. I even read the old posts again to be sure they were not changed. Today I was rewarded by another tale of the real world. I shall continue checking every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andrew, thanks for your kind words. You can subscribe to the website, and you’ll receive an email when something new is posted. Top of the page, below where it says:

      “Click the button below to get email notification of new posts.”

      w.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Click the button below to get email notification of new posts.”
        Alas, the button has never appeared on my Firefox screen, but I’m still trying to fix it.
        The button does appear in MS Edge, but WordPress pops up a screen which states that Edge isn’t supported and the button fails.

        Habits are funny things. I once had the habit of checking here almost every day, but my visits grew less frequent, with the lengthening hiatus since July. Thus, the habit of forgetting to check, causing me to miss the timing on the two previous posts.
        I heard someone say that we should establish a habit of breaking habits, but that doesn’t cut it, either.
        Such is the stuff of rules we make and attitudes we hold.

        Thanks for the reminder about the button, Willis.

        Like

  3. Willis: you are the best.

    I have a theory that whenever there’s a social dislocation: 1929 Crash, 2008 Crash, COVID craziness, a bunch of people get tossed out of the system and they never get back in again. “Human rubble” is what Curtis Yarvin call them. As you show us: it ain’t pretty.

    So my idea is that our glorious political and cultural leaders should be a lot more careful about stuff.

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  4. Great story Willis.
    I was on the Board of Directors of the largest homeless shelter in Calgary for 16 years. I used to talk to the homeless guys in my neighborhood and buy them coffee and food. They were mostly gentle, lost souls.
    Your story reminded me of my mining project in the high Andes – about 14,000 ft elevation in Jujuy, Argentina.
    The native people of the high Andes lived like their ancestors thousands of years ago. It must be one of the most hostile environments in the world – a high desert with ~no water, growing season, or oxygen. They had the greatest smiles and seemed quite happy with their lives.
    We found a mine and introduced modern medicine, and reduced their infant mortality rates. They also got jobs and money to buy stuff. I hope, in balance, we did them some good.
    Best, Allan

    Like

  5. Hi again Willis,
    Off-topic (as usual).
    Recall we both independently called the Covid-19 lockdowns as net-harmful on 21March2020?
    I publicly advised our governments one year ago that the “vaccines’ were hugely harmful – and that is also proving correct. [insert strong expletive here]
    Here is the rest of the story in my latest paper ( and yes, “it’s worse than we thought”):

    Recently posted on Electroverse.net:

    “this Covid mega-pandemic” was not a pandemic or even a serious epidemic. It was a world-scale scam.
    Read the following papers:

    SCIENTIFIC COMPETENCE – THE ABILITY TO CORRECTLY PREDICT
    October 20, 2021. Update November 8, 2021, Update January 14, 2022
    https://correctpredictions.ca

    CLIMATE CHANGE, COVID-19, AND THE GREAT RESET
    A Climate, Energy and Covid Primer for Politicians and Media March 21, 2021, Update 1e May 8, 2021
    https://thsresearch.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/climate-change-covid-19-and-the-great-reset-update-1e-readonly.docx

    Like

  6. “I never have time to kill… I have time to fill”.
    That fills volumes.

    To quote a lady friend at a party, who came face to face with another young lady in a see- through blouse:
    “Nice rack”.

    Like

  7. “I’d give it away. Not so much the physical stuff, although that too, but mostly my knowledge, my skills. When someone wanted to learn something, I’d give my time to teach them. When someone wanted a new job, I’d help them get it. I’d give it away without thought of recompense or reward. The reward would be in the doing.”

    Yes, absolutely.
    And I think it goes with a loss of ego and acquisitiveness. It’s buttressed by aging and the realization we can’t take it with us; neither material goods nor knowledge, nor wisdom. So it seems to me to make so much sense to pass it on, at least to the receptive.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Willis! A few years ago, we had a brief exchange about my travel trailer and your truck camper and whose thing was bigger quarters were smaller. You won. (I enjoyed the couple of pics I saw of your truck bed rig. Ummm… cozy.)

    Anyhow, you’ve upgraded your truck and I have upgraded the travel trailer to a 42.5-foot 5th-wheel with 5 slide-outs. It is our Florida Snowbird Winter home.

    I bought a 2021 RAM 3500 4×4 8′ bed Dually with a Cummins turbo-diesel to haul that rig. It’s the Laramie trim and has all the toys. I swear it has alien spaceship technology! (I had no intention of buying such a luxury beast, but the used truck market was so crazy that it was only $10k more new than a 3-year old RAM with 40-60k miles, lower trim, and no warranty. Duh! Pay the extra $10Kand get new!)

    Anyhow, I know you’re an analytical chap and I wondered why you chose a RAM truck. I chose RAM for the Cummins diesel. My prior trucks were Fords; an F-150, then and F-250. I was pretty much a Ford guy. When I needed a diesel, I went with RAM because I thought the Cummins was best. (Nissan went with Cummins, but they don’t have a dually. That left RAM.)

    Anyhow, I’m very happy with my RAM, and I wondered why you chose RAM. You seem pleased enough with your choice, but I am curious if there was something that led you to pick RAM over Ford, GM, Toyota, or Nissan.

    Anything specific, or was it just “a good truck at an offer I couldn’t refuse?”

    Like

    • I mostly bought it for the EcoDiesel engine. It gets 25 mph on flat land and 20 mpg in the hills.

      Plus, the offer was good and it was available nearby.

      w.

      PS—Congrats on the 5th wheel, sounds great. Might have to look you up in Florida.

      Like

      • Thanks for the backstory on your purchase, Willis.

        Yeah, the fuel mileage came as a complete surprise to me. I was just looking to tow with maximum safety. We are towing twice the weight and getting almost twice the mpg out of the RAM.

        We averaged 16.5 mpg, mostly stop ‘n go city driving, once we are in Florida. Towing 16,000# through the mountains of Kentuckey and Tennessee, we were getting 10.5 mpg. When the terrain flattened out in Georgia and Florida, we were getting about 12-13 mpg. Freeway driving and not towing at 65+/- mph, we get around 19 mpg.

        I made sure I got the 50-gallon tank. Range anxiety? What is range anxiety? ;o)

        Do drop in if you are out our way. We stay on the Gulf side midway between Clearwater and St. Petersburg. The RV park is about 4 minutes from the beach if you make all the lights, and 10-12 minutes if you hit the red lights and have to wait for a boat to go through the drawbridge.

        Best regards,
        H.R.

        Like

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