24 September, 2013

Modesto

It will take me some time to write in clarity about the entirety of this summer, journeying from west coast to east, living in an ecovillage, travelling in Baltimore and visitng family, coming back to Seattle only to head south with nothing but my bike and backpack, culminating in a visit to Symbiosis, a crazy 5 day music and arts festival, but I can write a little about Modesto.

Modesto is a little town about 3 hours east of San Francisco located in the flat, hot nowhere of agricultural production of California. Before coming here I didn't know anything about the city except that it was in the middle of California and George Lucas grew up here. And walnuts. There were walnut trees everywhere.

When I came here on the way to Symbiosis, there I was not terribly impressed with Modesto. Like a lot of places in the USA, it has a similar collection of fast food joints, Walmarts and strip malls. Like everywhere else in the country, people sit on buses and in cars and don't talk to eachother and you see the same general clothes and gestures and accents copied from the latest TV and rap and  hollywood stars.

The McDonalds in downtown Modesto caught my eye not because it was especially beautiful but because it was interesting. I've long held a love-hate relationship with a lot of big corporations like Disney, Coca Cola, Apple and McDonalds, companies which do a lot of harm to the public good, yet are incredibly good at changing and making themselves attractive. McDonalds has revamped itself to be a coffee bar, included health foods and nutritional information. It looks friendly, even and after a long bout of being in the wilderness, hiking or camping, I have often been tempted to a McDonalds milkshake or Ice Cold Coke, a pleasure which never lasts very long..

A few times at the ecovillage, I excitededly awaited my visits to town where I could pick up supplies and spend the day in the brightly lit coffeshops(a step up from the commercial McDonalds). These forays, although happily gave money to local stores, still left me feeling bored and overwhelmed and after the business of having a full belly was accomplished.

But time after time, I've found myself in this same predicament, this predicament of wanting and craving for something, yet being disappointed when it came. At Symbiosis, I craved the sun when it became cold, yet was bored when it became sunny. I came to town, excited to get some non-camp food and check my emails at Starbucks yet after my belly was full and emails read, I quickly became overwhelmed. I spent the night at a cheap hotel(although I didn't really want to) and although it was nice to get cleaned up, I quickly became bored without anything to do in town. I walked down the street at 6 in the morning, Walmart groceries was the only store open and the most economical way to eat, so I stepped in there. I haven't been to a Walmart in years and was quickly reminded of the comfort of those neon lights. I played the Nintendo Wii U console that was sitting out. The last game console I had was a Nintendo 64, and though I was initially excited, I got bored after beating the first level of Super Mario Wii U.

Again and again, these cycles of hope and disappointment continue. Right now I am a nomad, a traveller, homeless and though I crave rest, I am torn between the congestion and excitement and convenience of the city, which I know won't last and the coldness and loneliness of living out in the boonies. Any hope that having a settled place with green grass is in my mind an illusion. But where then are our dreams? I have a feeling it is in some deeper meaning, although that is something I am still figuring out. I want to be an idealistic artist, but truth be told, it is very hard when you are cold, wet, hungry and broke.

And so it goes. The train to Modesto comes. Joy and sun come and go. Rain and cold do too. Hunger comes and goes. It will be good if I can remember this, if we can all remember this, although it is something very difficult to do.

The temptation of Super Mario Wii U or Coke or coffee or any of a million different things, with their colorful rainbow hues beckon to us, in the end, being only empty calories.

The temptation is not much unlike a drug addiction and not much unlike lust. And for a while they can be nice, but they will not bring one home. And so I search for home, not that illustion of brightness and comfort, but not some place where I will suffer needlessly. I hope you all may find home as well. Maybe we are already there and don't know it?