The unwritten novel…
leaving the US—
The short Greyhound ride to Minneapolis to visit some good friends before the long ride to New York City was uneventful. As we parted ways after partying the new year away like it was 1999, there were some tears shed and heart-felt hugs. For the next 2 days I sat with thoughts to myself and dreams ov what may come. Sitting in JFK airport I got John Denver stuck in my head. Only one verse, “Im leeeeeeaving, on a Jet plane, Don’t know if ill be back again.” Over and over again it rang in my head. Even though I had a return ticket from Reykjavik 12 days later, my plan was to let it burn up and see what the fates had in store. Going through check-in and all the rest was as routine as you can get for leaving the USA after 9/11. From New York to Iceland is a pretty short flight. Not enough to get jet-lag. I had been there before and since I was very low on cash($250USD to be exact) that is why I chose the most expensive country in Europe at the time. Not because i'm suicidal, or crazy, but in a city ov 180,000people, id have a better chance at finding gainful employment than a bigger city, like lets say- London, Paris or Dublin. Where there would be hundreds if not thousands ov people in the same situation or worse. Without a working visa, just your standard tourist visa, I knew it would not be easy. Oh how the fates are a tricky and treacherous deity. Upon check-in at the HI hostel in Reykjavik, near the largest geo-thermally heated Olympic sized swimming pool, most ov my funds just disappeared like morning frost under a warm sun. Not to say that’s what the weather was like. It being January 7, 2006 the darkness was near total, though the street lights and warm hospitality from all travel personnel upon arrival were nice. As they knew im a ‘tourist’ and there is money in my pocket. Little did they know how much and for how long it would last. There were your standard questions at the airport, “Where are you staying? For how long will you be here? May I see your passport please? Oh, from America I see. Did you know your country has a military base here? Enjoy the weather, and if you don’t like it, wait five minutes. It will change.” Having checked into the hostel and paying for 2 nights accommodation in advance left me with less than little spending money. The very next morning while smoking a rolly cigarette on the terrace out back, I chanced upon a conversation with another nicotine addict. For that is what we were, standing out there in the cold cold air getting a fix regardless the cost, financially or physically. Well, it just so happened that he was a volunteer there and was leaving later that day. “Speak with the manager, she may be interested in your help.” After we crush the life from our own personal cancer sticks, I ruminate things over in my head. Asking the receptionist for the manager produced results in short order. As I sat waiting I think, ”This is it. ive got to sell myself in order for this to work.” A little background information- im a very introverted person, and talking to people is not my forte. Even prospective employers give me the willies. Well, she sits me down and asks directly, “What can you do?” Without batting an eye, my first response is, ”You see that hat your wearing? I could make one just like it if need be.” Ive got years experience in the garment industry. From cutting nylon back-packs to old fashioned leather and canvas bags. What that had to do with any sort ov work in the hospitality industry was beyond me. It was just the first thing that came out ov my mouth. As I caught what I was flubbering on about, my mind raced to lessons id had in school about job interviews. “I’m a hard worker and make it a point to be on time, while being considerate of customer service and getting along well with co-workers. Always listening to supervisors, while contributing insight to the job at hand.” A long stream ov words came pouring out my mouth while a trickle ov sweat dripped from my arm pit. A short pause as she contemplates my presentation and then I hear those magic words, “We have a person here who could use some relief from duty.” She said. “Let me show you around and you can start this evening.
living in Europe- The first 3 months were spent in Reykjavik Iceland. I cant say it was the best time ov my life. The funds I earned each month allowed me to be very cheap on the weekends I didn’t have to work. Most ov the people go out on Friday and Saturday nights. The main shopping street(which was geo-thermally heated to melt snow and ice, like Superior St. in Duluth Minnesota) is packed with drunken youth and elders alike. Beautiful girls in miniskirts standing in line for hours to get into the posh clubs. I preferred the less-than-savory bars. One reason is because I could get myself a drink without waiting in line AND there was a more diversity ov characters there. From the hostel to the city center is a couple kilometers and it’s the last bus we would take at 23:45. Usually a group ov us tourist would head out together, only to get separated half way through the night. Only to meet up again the next morning to share stories ov the previous night events. Or maybe it was just me who would get separated from everyone else. The fact we lived together, if only for a few days, and my non-caring adventurous spirit would lead me into any situation. Then getting back to our place ov residence was a challenge in itself. Not remembering the way exactly and having a few pints ov beer, or shots bought by friendlies, tends to add to the confusion. A few times walking back I would get lost only to find the way out ov desperation. With a bitter cold and dreams ov a warm bed waiting, it will give energy to otherwise weary feet and drooping eyes. There was another guy from the USA, Mr.A i'll call him, staying there with us for a while. Though we were cut from a different cloth, I from the Scandinavian parts ov the upper mid-west and he from old-country New England area, we had a certain camaraderie in our nationalism. Or it could have been the fact as both native English speakers, we could exchange deeper ideas than otherwise possible with people having English as a 2nd language. Not to detract from their language ability, a great many spoke near perfect, but there is a certain “at ease” about yankee-talk that we both found re-assuring. We had some great adventures together, Mr. A and I, but also we tended to try and separate ourselves from each other. Otherwise we looked like a couple tourist coming to the "We come from the land of the ice and snow, From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow, The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands, To fight the horde, singing and crying: "Valhalla, I am coming!"” for a visit. It was in Iceland working in the travel industry that I met a great many people who had been to far off exotic places that made my heart leap and yearn with the possibilities ov new flavors and experiences. Nearing the 3 month mark, I felt my days there were up. After all, I didn’t want to be an illegal immigrant in ANY country. So after arranging a flight to Luton Airport near London (note I say NEAR, not IN) England for 3 days. I managed to make it down to Hastings in East Sussex. Battle, actually where the conflict ov 1066 occurred, is just up the road. I was there to visit a friend who was volunteering on an organic vineyard. Thats right. a vineyard in England. He was the man who I helped cover shifts for in Iceland. I got to see how things were run there. It being organic and a family venture, it differed from my experience years before visiting some vineyards in Sonoma Valley in northern California where everything was industrialized for maximum efficiency. It was really a short lay-over, as we didn’t sight see or experience any culture. Just watched him work and write a bit in my journal. Upon returning to London, I managed to hook up with a couple people who had visited Reykjavik for a couple days. When they were there, I being single, tried to hook up with the girl though by all means I think the guy was more interested in me. Anyway, after some confusion ov meeting points in Charing Cross( I think this is where the country train terminates when entering London from the South) We agreed to meet outside ov the “Boots” pharmacy store, but through the use ov strangers cell phones, I did not clarify near which ‘platform’ Boots I was standing near to. So finally we meet up and they decided to take me to a cool place called the “Crowbar” Which carrying all my bags, I felt a bit out ov place. The décor and clientele seemed to my taste, but I was so weighted down, I felt like all the eyes were on me. With almost no money in my pocket, I opened the bottle ov desert wine I was given at the vineyard and that was that. I know its not usually allowed to bring your own alcohol into a bar, but I was in the guise ov “poor/foreign tourist” And sometimes you just gotta do what ya gotta do. So when I finally came to on the bus, at whatever ungodly hour before my flight that morning, I just rung the bell and got off. Now you must understand this was the era ov paranoia as the 7/7/05 and 21/7/05 bus-bombings were just 8 or 9 months earlier. So when I forgot my chest bag on the bus as I stumbled onto the street, a fearful soul had the driver stop and they returned my bag. Or should I say just dropped in on the street NOT on the bus itself. Thereby protecting themselves, but had it been an explosive, it was sitting on the curb. Now I may lean to the black side ov things, but a terrorist I am not. So I was lucky to have my possessions returned to me. Especially when my journal, liter ov Brennivin(Icelandic Schnapps), and toothbrush were all inside. Very important to travelers for very different reasons. I was on my way to transfer to Dublin Ireland for work in a hostel off the western coast past Galway. Having spent what little Icelandic Kroner remained, I was hopping passenger trains without tickets to catch my flight. As example, riding the trains to the airport, I needed a valid ticket to Exit the platform. There was a man in uniform operating the handicap exit and one whiff ov my breath from the desert wine the evening before, he let me through without a ticket, but told me to “never to return again”. It’s a good thing I didn’t plan to. But luck was not to be on my side. Boarding the plane for the short hop to Dublin, I sat and relaxed looking out the window. After we landed and walked the concourse to immigration, I was treated to my first taste ov control. When asked the usual questions, “Where are you from? How long are you staying? How much money do you have?” I answered, “The USA, Oh, I don’t know, a month maybe. No money whatsoever. Why, is there a problem officer?" These are all the wrong answers. When the 4 weeks was spoken ov, the officer nearly gasped in surprise and needed to know my fund-age situation. My original intention was to hitch hike from Dublin to Galway. As I already had the secret for a cheap ferry ride to the island, I wanted to experience the adventure ov cross-country travel with nothing but the bag on my back and the kindness ov strangers. Well, he was having none ov it. I was escorted to a waiting area without luggage nor passport and told to wait. Having only my chest bag to keep me company, I started to write frantically. Not sure what was to be happening to me, I thought all was lost and the jig up. On the other side ov the glass I could see my oversized back-bag. There were no officers in front ov the gates, and im sure I could have walked freely into the emerald isle, but certainly have some questions to answer to, for my arrest and positive deportation would be eminent. So I sat tight and waited, and waited, and waited some more. Looking around in boredom, I see an ante-room unattended. Walking inside there is a broken row ov typical airport seats, graffiti on the walls and cigarette butts on the floor ov a no smoking airport. Having bought duty free Brennivin in the 1 liter bottle before leaving Iceland, I start swiggin it down. “If i'm going home, then i'm going home drunk.” Was the most ov my thoughts. After a couple hours, my nicotine craving was coming back and I decided to sneak a smoke in this room. Upon lighting up(this was when you could still travel with a Bic in your pocket) I took a few quick puffs. Seeing the cloud ov smoke form, I butted it out just in time. An officer came in asking if I was smoking. “Do you see me puffing?” I smell smoke. ”Its those butts on the ground.” He looked at me dubiously, but left. Upon the wall a magical mural appeared. A cute stick figure with shoulders raised in a questioning look. On the right hand was a giant skyscraper with a bit ov garden on the roof. The other hand pointed to a desert island with a wood hut. Im not sure the meaning ov the picture , but i've got a good idea. After what seemed like hours, they came and got me. Escorting me towards the plane, I was explained that ,because ov Article 4 Section 7 ov the Immigration Act, I was not allowed entrance into the Republic ov Ireland. Any visitor must prove to the officials that they are able to support themselves and dependents for the duration ov their stay. Having failed to do so, I was to be sent back where I came from. “What will happen when I get to England?” I asked. “Don’t know, probably the same thing.” Which would mean another de-flection to Iceland, and a final one to the USA. Which was where I exactly didn’t want to go. But to my amazement, I just walked back into England upon landing. Right past customs and border inspection. Even though Great Britain is NOT part ov Schengen, there was very lax border control coming from Ireland. Now having no money, no place to go, and no one to talk to, I was in a pickle. Not being a very experienced traveler, I did what I thought best. Drank the last ov my Brennivin. Not that I was greedy about it, I offered the people sitting next to me some, but not realizing it was 9:00 in the morning, I came off as more an alcoholic than I was. So I slept most the day away on the hard floor. Bags tucked underneath for security and wrapped in my wool blanket. Getting up that afternoon and washing in the toilets to refresh my self seemed like a good idea. Thankfully the toilets are open to passengers and the like at airports, unlike at bus terminals. Now the last food I had eaten was on the flights both ways. If you know anything about the quality ov food on the ‘discount’ airlines, you can imagine what my stomach was doing. I started to patrol the restaurant area waiting for the paying customers to leave some table scraps. A few bread crusts here and cold coffee, I made my breakfast. A man had watched me picking up the trays to scavenge food and bought me a sandwich. It was one ov the kindest and most humbling experiences that week. After one more night sleeping on the hard floor, posing as a would-be flying traveler and I had enough and headed into the city. By this time, I had contacted my friend “Mr.E the English/American” again. He talked with his boss and they agreed to take me on as a WWOOFer(Willing Worker On Organic Farms). Though not quite yet. They had no work for me until after Easter, another 2 weeks in the future. Wandering around London with too many bags is not the greatest sight seeing adventure it sounds like. One specific morning after leaving the comfort and safety ov the airport, i wandered around some neighborhood, i don't know which, but hungry and tired, i knocked on the door ov a church. It being around 5:30, i awoke the keeper. And it being a Polish church, they did not speak any English. After returning an hour later, they knew by my bags that i was not from around there. So a plate ov food and some coffee was set out for me. Thanking them and saying good-bye, i set off in search ov another church. Mass was being said and i sat through the entire torturous experience in hopes ov chatting with the pastor and pleading my case. By time all the sheep had left, i was denied access by the henchman to the cross. If only i could deposit some coins, would i be able to talk with the man ov the cloth.
6 weeks volunteering at an organic vineyard before saving enough money to buy a return to Ireland and have enough cash to show customs that I was a tourist. Now this time coming through immigration was really interesting. As I had already received a stamp when I landed the first time, though it was ‘X’ed out, led to many questions. More specifically, “What are you doing coming back since you were here only 6 weeks ago?” Well, then I had to explain how I wasn’t allowed entry because ov money and now i did. This time I proved to them I had 250EU in cash and if I ‘only’ stayed in a hostel in Dublin, that could support me. “Ill be the judge ov that!” he says. When pushed further for reason my coming to Ireland, I explained that some ov my family were from Ireland and I wanted to see the homeland. “Why didn’t you say that the first time?” he asked. Even though he enters a lot ov information into the computer inregards to my passport, numbers it AND initials it, after that brief exchange ov words, im allowed in. Besides the usual entry stamp, I also get another stamp saying "No work visa, valid until ‘this’ date" and his initials. I was IN!!! So happy was I, as I had reservation for a rendezvous with a certain French girl I had been emailing with for around 2-3 months. Our meeting in Iceland was brief, but there was some connection there. We wrote a lot, her in readable English, and my attempt at French with the use ov google-translate(or the like) made her tell me to “just write in English it makes more sense.” Those days we had together were so magical. I had forgotten what its like to fall in love after all the years ov drug use. By only writing to get to know each other and no body-language, I really think it created something special. Usually i'd just try to pick up drunk girls in a bar for one night stands. Never committing to relationships, even if the girl was great. But her, my oh my, we had fun. As we were young, free and curious, we explored Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains. Our nights were more romantic than any night i've had in Paris. Our parting was such sweet sorrow, but plans were made for future meetings. After making it out to the Aran Islands I stayed for 3.5 months, thinking I was such a criminal for over staying my visa. During that time I picked up a job tending bar in a busy pub. That was probably the greatest job i've had whilst traveling. During the weekends, they hired some musicians from the mainland to play. When you speak ov “trad” music in Ireland, that was it. It was somewhere around the 2 month mark, when I knew my time was nearing its end, that while slinging pints ov Guinness I actually got sick to my stomach. No, not from the stout, but from the beautiful sounds filling my ears. I can't say Irish music is my favorite, but just listening and watching them play from the heart was special. Afterwards, when the doors were locked and the floor mopped and tables cleared, we would relax and they would regale stories to us about the places they had played and sometimes, not often, but on occasion, we were allowed to hear them play again. Not for money, just the pure love ov playing they poured out the sounds. It was somewhere around this time that my girl came back for a visit. Though we never left the island, it was a most serene time. It being Ireland, it did rain a lot, but for some reason that summer was magnificent. While working all this time, my friend from New Orleans came for a 1 week visit. I took the time off from the hostel and the pub to meet him in Dublin. 2 days there and we took the bus to Waterford City. I had heard a friend ov mine was living and working there at the same time I was in Ireland. So upon arrival, we hunted down all the tattoo parlors in the city. From there I went to France to visit a girlfriend in Bordeaux. We stayed in Bordeaux for around 10 days before going north to St. Malo and seeing Mont St. Michel. After parting ways in Paris, I took a bus to Amsterdam and hooked up with an Icelandic friend by the name ov Siggi Punk. He let me stay in a house where his friend lived in Arnhem. I really liked the city. As I was having dinner with him and his girlfriend, he had brought a .5L bottle ov the infamous Icelandic schnapps “Brennivin”. I really wished to get drunk and being completely without money I had to beg most my way around. Such as when I was staying in this house, everytime I ate some food, I thought about what my grocery list was to be once I got some cash to replace it. I asked him for a drink and he explained how it was a gift for a friend. Im grateful for his assistance and all that he showed me while staying there. Going to a Ska concert one night and the next was some Death Metal. Having gone to Amsterdam before, I was extremely curious to see other cities in this country. Im not sure about how I got to Rotterdam, but there I was next. It was like a small home-coming when I seen the lift bridge in this city. Duluth Minnesota has one also, im told there are only 10 operational in the whole world. Im not sure who designed it originally, but they are spread all over. Sarahs parents are extremely nice people and very accepting ov a traveler like me. They took me out to dinner in the old port building for the Holland-Amerika Line. A very expensive restaurant in which her father was having a business dinner with some Japanese people. With my beard in a ‘Leprechaun’ style and they mis-understanding I was NOT from Ireland was not so much amusing as embarrassing for misrepresenting a stereo-type. After visiting Sarah in Rotterdam and not knowing where to go, I hopped a train to Munich and stayed with another girl I met in Ireland. It just happened to be Oktoberfest and I was in time for the festivities. Drinking 1 liter steins ov the popular german brews was a great time. Eva only came with a couple times as she had other obligations, but Paulaner, Augustiner, Lowenbrau tents were massive. Must have been near a thousand people in lederhosen. As we wandered the carnival area, we ate sour kraut from a 3-pronged wooden fork and enjoyed our life. I stayed in Munich for around 10 days before arranging a flight to Dublin from Milan Italy. I remember distinctly leaving the train station. As we sat outside waiting for the boarding time, it was painful, yet necessary. The long to live with a fellow yankee ruled over any emotion for staying with a girl who was compassionate and caring for me. She understood the pain ov depression and the struggle to overcome and see the light on the other side. In Waterford I lived with Mr.W for around 3 months before immigration came to our house and we were ejected from the country. I took RyanAir to London and getting piss drunk while inside the terminal, I missed the flight to Reykjavik. When I woke up in a sitting position, I rushed to the check-in desk to try and get moving. Luckily there was another flight that day and for a 50Euro cash-only fee I made my flight. That was fucking close!! When I arrived in Keflavik, the immigration officer was about to deny my entry even for a lay-over. Having put off my passport renewal in Dublin to the last minute left my current identification under the 3 month mark. With edges peeling and laminate torn, the officer explained he did not have to let me in. With a plea I explained, “i'm on my way home to the US and I will renew it when I get there. Besides, i'm just a 5 day lay-over in Iceland as a tourist to spend money”. STAMP, i'm in like Flynn. With another transfer through England, I had a lay-over in Iceland, where I changed my ticket and stayed for 7 months. Having emailed the previous mentioned supervisor, I aligned some work. When I checked in to the place, there was a sleeping bag in another bed. Because ov the mix up on me missing my flight, my bags were delayed 2 days and I had nothing to sleep under. Just ‘borrowing’ the one on the other bed proved to be an over step on my part. But it all turned out for the great. As my new Australian room mate by the name Mr.J had also lived in Ireland for a while. In fact, as I was living on Inis Mor in 2006, he was living in Galway, the next closest, major city and port in order to get where I was. It’s fucking strange how coincidence work, or maybe it really IS a small world. Anyway, even though I stole his blanket, we became good friends and ended up moving in to the same house after 2 months. Now these people we met were really cool. I guess you could say that was my first introduction to proper dumpster-diving. We were living in a suburb ov Reykjavik and the market was a short 2 blocks away. Going there in the middle ov the night and opening the bins was like a treasure trove ov stuff. All the fresh food we could eat. Even for a house that varied from nine to sixteen people. Always the refrigerator was full. In fact, we had 2. One was for animal products, and the larger was for plants ONLY. There were even artistic pictures painted on them so no one would get confused. As it was a multi-lingual house. On the large one, a cornucopia filled with grapes, melons and the like. On the small one was the cutest cow ive ever seen with ‘X’s’ for eyes. After that, I took the ferry to Denmark and traveled up to Stockholm and into Finland. When I made it to the ferry port, I just bought the next available ticket and without a room to sleep in, I hit up the bar. A man from Russia befriended me and we drank in the discoteque. For one reason or another, I ended up in the holding cell ov the detention center on the boat. Im still trying to figure out what happened. Most likely I passed out to drunk to walk. Im not a violent guy on the inside. When I woke up in the metal room, I had no pants on and was still pretty drunk. Accepting my situation, I start to kick the door with more strength than my body could handle and ended up doing serious damage to the arch ov my right foot. I was only trying to get their attention to let me out. When the Finnish police gave me my clothes and belongings, they were concerned about my Spyderco knife I had been wearing. As the blade was over 7cm and concealed against my body, it seemed as if I were some sort ov dark criminal. They ran my name and passport number to make sure I wasn’t wanted in their country. Having never been there before, it came up clean. As they were releasing me, they confiscated my knife. I tried to explain that I didn’t know it was illegal to carry on my person. They were having none ov it. I asked if it were possible for me to take a picture ov it before they took it so I could at least remember it, they looked at one another and put it in my bag. From that point on, I didn’t carry it on my person. In all my travels previous, I had never used it, not once. Why I had it with me, I didn’t even know. I guess one ov those status symbols. Having a finely crafted weapon makes one feel important. At least in my own mind. But, accepting that fact, I buried it under all my gear and didn’t think I was above the law anymore. They let me limp away and FINALLY reaching the motherland!!! Turku was the city I landed. A friend was staying on the couch there and when I looked her up, she invited me out. Even though it was someone else's apartment. Having brought a bottle ov wine, we drank a bit and talked about how much fun we had working together in Iceland. When the darkness was complete, she explained I was not allowed to stay there. She drove me into the city center and dropped me at the bus station. Feeling quite jilted at being left to my own devices, after what I thought a nice evening, I hunted for a place to sleep. As I watched and chatted with some military youth waiting for a bus, I spied a cardboard recycling container. Once everyone was gone, I wandered over to check the dimensions. It was 2m long by 1m wide. As I lifted the lid there was a bunch ov sand with only a scrap or two inside. Plenty ov room for me to lay down with my bags to the side. Checking to make sure there was no locking mechanism on the outside, and looking to see no one around, I climb inside and rest my weary bones. There was just enough room for me to stay on my back or stomach. But if I turned on side, my body would push the lid open a bit, letting in the cool September air. There I slept the night. It was more comfortable than you might imagine. But a liter ov red wine may have influenced that aspect. When I finally woke in the morning with a slight glow coming through the plastic I believed it to be vary late in the day. Somewhere around 9:30 or 10 was my guess, as I don’t travel with a time-piece. Hearing the busses pull to a stop and all the passengers boarding and un-boarding made it seem very busy. I arranged myself inside the container as to make as little noise as possible. As is usually the case, my bladder was full and nature was a’callin’. There was no hope to wait for everyone to be gone from the station and sneak out unobserved, so I slowly lifted the lid and slid out with out making a big commotion about it. Now it may be part ov the Finnish culture, but not a soul looked in my direction. Or if they did see me, not one had something to say to me. Everyone was minding their own business and I headed for the toilets inside. At this particular transit center, they are pay toilets. So just waiting outside the locked door until its opened from the inside so I could sneak in without having to pay the 2EU fee was my way to go. The man exiting even held to door open for me when he seen me reach for it. I guess he understood what I was doing and didn’t mind. A quick wash ov the face and brush ov the teeth and I was on my limping way. Now having grown up in a town ov 4000 people, my idea ov a ‘big’ city is quite different than others. But to the contrary, Turku seemed very manageable walking. Not that I went far. From the bus station to the closest Irish pub. It being closed as when I climbed from the bin, it was only 6:30 in the morning. It sure seemed later and louder on the inside. I guess that’s my own fear ov being a nuisance. After a few hours wandering the city and taking pictures I needed to relax. Once evening fell, I decided to try my luck in the cardboard bin again. Now it may have to do with the chill night air, or my lack ov Guinness, but to my dismay it was to cold and to hard for my taste. Deciding I could afford a warm bed in a hostel, I climb from my plastic bed and limp to a cab driver waiting near the bus station. I should have known better getting in the car at 3 in the morning. His meter was already tacked at 7.00EU and by explaining I wanted a hostel, he drove on top ov that charge. As we drew to the building, I told him I wouldn’t pay. He didn’t much like that and we argued and yelled at each other for a bit. But eventually I caved in and let him take advantage ov me. I paid the price on the machine and got out. Yelling curses in English seemed to have little effect on him as he drove away, though I know the ‘Great-Leveler’ will balance out his Karma in the future. So there I was on the door step. Alone, swollen foot, cold to the bone and resigned to pay for a bed I would only use for a couple hours. Ringing the door-bell I wait. And wait and wait. There was no friendly greeting for my weary head. A heavy knock at the door and a persistent RIIIIIIIING ov the bell finally got me a response from the intercom. “im looking for a bed for the night.” I ask. "Sorry, we are closed, try again tomorrow." He tells me. WHAT?!?! I couldn’t believe my ears. “This is the Hostelling International Turku, isn’t it?” Yes, but we are closed for the evening, no more reservations. This is something I could not believe. Must have been my state ov mind at the time, but incredulity was the thought. I even begged and pleaded with them to let me in. Explaining how my right foot was hurt, how I slept in a box, how cold I was. But to no avail, pretty soon he just stopped answering my cries. Well, there was nothing left for me to do but limp back the whole over-expensive taxi ride to my make-shift accommodation. Along my way into the city center, I came across a drunken lad walking home. As I was laden down with bags, we started a conversation. Now not wanting to pay for a hotel and getting the shaft from the hostel was salty enough for me. It took not nearly 5 minutes and my new friend was inviting me back to his house. We climbed 3 flights ov stairs and quietly entered his flat. He had warned me that his girl might not be to keen on allowing a stranger into the house. And so was the case. They argued in Suomi for a bit and he returned with a blanket and pillow. Though intoxicated, he was still capable ov kindness. I followed him up the last flight to the 5th floor and he explained no one goes to the attic(so often) and if I wake early, I will be able to leave with no one the wiser. So it was that I curled up in the stairwell until the sun rose. As neatly as allowed, I folded the blankets and returned them to the front door ov the apartment. Not wanting to wake a man who had a bit to drink the night before, I left in peace thanking him in my mind and in my heart.
It was then I was ready to see the capital. Heading north by train, I passed through Tampere to Oulu. This was a night ride and I did not see much ov the landscape, but the 3 hour bus ride east towards Russia reminded my ov Northern Minnesota. From the trees growing and all the lakes we passed, it was very nostalgic. For the first time in almost 2 years I felt like I was home again. Until I seen my first reindeer. Utter amazement was the emotion, never had I seen such an animal wandering freely. Never mind stopping traffic as it meandered across the road. It was a cool sight to behold and I remember it like yesterday. But after the thirty or fortieth time we had to slow down, it got a little old. “Do they not have electric fences to keep this cattle contained?”, I thought. Ovcourse not, the Sami people are nomadic by culture and need to allow the beast to wander where the food is. To keep them locked up and force-fed is not part ov their mind-set. I could be wrong, for what do I know ov these people? The final destination was a city called Kuusamo. A funny side note later was when I told native Suomi where I was living. As I do not speak the language, to say Kuusamo, is the name ov a type ov tree. Hence the naming ov the city, as that tree is common there.. But when I would say it without the long ‘U’ it meant ‘to piss’. Which got quite a few laughs from all sorts ov people from the south around Helsinki. There was a man I had met in Reykjavik whose wife owned the oldest pub in the city and he invited me to come stay with him. Without calling ahead in anyway, I just sauntered in to the bar and asked if they knew an Englishman. This was not a big city by any means. 19,000 people and im sure 99% lived in the countryside. It was around 2 months I was there before heading back to Iceland for money. Getting hooked up with some friends at the Irish pub I drank at, they let me stay with them. It was another 6 months there before I tried to leave. Getting kicked off the airplane and living with another friend for a month before catching a flight to Copenhagen. For almost 10 months living there, building up a network ov friends, before I left it all behind and travelled to Switzerland and visited Dr. Albert Hofmanns garden and then back for Roskilde festival. From there I hitched up through Sweden near the top ov Norway for the summer solstice. Returning to my girlfriend in Denmark and then saying good-bye once more before going to the Ukraine. It was in Odessa I stayed for a week. Then going to Kiev and meeting some cool people I stayed almost 2 months before flying back to the USA.
leaving Europe—It was a warm September day that I went to the airport. Without the assistance ov Dima(my Kiev host) to figure out how to take the bus from the Metro station, im sure I would have missed my flight. Or at least had been overcharged, just like when I arrived in Kiev looking for the embassy. Riding in the front seat with a new friend next to me, I stared out the window is silence. Speaking English in confined public space made me self-conscious. The landscape glided by and my thoughts filled with sadness. At my travels ending, at my future and possible incarceration, at all the newest friends I may never see again. My flight was scheduled for 13:15 departure, so I arrived more than 2 hours early to be sure. When I walked in just after 10, the sign said the flight had already been delayed until 15:10. So my friend who came along(just to see what an airport is like, i'm sure. Flying is very expensive in Ukraine, and not many people are doing it. As we sat in the shade and drank a few liters ov beer we talked ov many things. But when he asked if there was anyway we could SEE an airplane, i knew it was fascination, with a touch ov jealousy that brought him with me to this tarmac for metal birds. I pointed to the launch-path where the trail ov Con-trail pollution left its mark and he clarified about going inside to see people boarding. Probably having never flown, or seen an airplane up close he was curious as to what the privileged class enjoyed. Im sure I could justifiably argue the environmental damage caused by jet engines, but ill leave that up to the ‘greenies’. To me I hate airplanes because it implies being inside a cage for hours on end, bypassing all the world below, and security checks. So after we drink and smoke, I check later and the flight was delayed until 17:00. What can possibly be happening that it gets pushed back so long?! Out we go, but farther from the doors, where the beer gets cheaper and less people to sit next to. Now im almost impatient to get this fucking show on the road. Ive got to sit in the plane for 10 hours in the air before landing at JFK. The same airport I left from, oh so many long years ago. As we talk, I start rapping the last pieces ov my walking stick together in frustration. It immediately draws the attention ov another smoker like me. He saunters up and asks if im a musician in Russian. Not that I knew what he said, but after the usual formalities and the explanation that i'm an ‘American’, we chat for a bit. My cohort-in-waiting didn’t talk right away and got a kick out ov the fact our stranger assumed he was a ‘Yank’ as well. I let the cat out ov the bag and the conversation fell back into Russian-speak with me being the outsider again. They speed along in Russian as there more meaning behind your native tongue that when you can only speak a little ov another language. That’s what i'm told anyway. For 4 years away, mainly speaking to people who have English as a second language, I never even picked up basic conversation skills in any tongue. The usual “Thank you”, “please”, and a multitude ov curse words was as far as I made it.