a strange invitation

…so long, it’s been good to know you
January 20, 2007, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“I was sitting on a couch somewhere, watching VH1,
When I learned that Bruce Springsteen is his mother’s only son,
I’m my mother’s only daughter; we were both Born to Run,
But even he says it’s amazing raising babies in the place where you come from”Kimya Dawson

I’ve always tried to avoid being confrontational when entering discussions with those who define themselves by the places they’ve visited, largely due to the fact that I tend to leave people to their own devices, unless they are being overly offensive or blocking my way. Yet it’s always seemed a little illogical to me that someone would travel halfway across the world to ‘find themselves’, and for a group that defines itself through a sense of adventure through ‘living on the edge’, it seemed somewhat contradictory that the majority of these people had affluent and stable middle-class families to go home to after their ‘triumph’ over adverse conditions faced in encountering ‘alien’ cultures. To an extent, travel is often undertaken so that we can return home and tell ohers about it, thus elevating our own status in a society in which, in modernity, status is increasingly dictactated, not by the position we hold in our employment, but by how we spend our leisure time. Despite these factors, I was never really able to claim a clear-cut distinction between their approach and my own, and it would rather hypocritical to claim any kind of superiority on my part: the journeys I’ve taken have become a significant influence in my own personality. Yet, these encounters were always interesting to me, and recent events have led me to question my transitory nature.

I spent a lot of my time travelling in my youth, partially due to the fact that I lacked either the ability or the inclination to support myself in the traditional ways. It wasn’t that I didn’t do well in school: the sense of rebellion that I possessed wasn’t aimed at anything as concrete as the education system, I just didn’t find that the things I learned at secondary school had any practical application in my life at the time. As a result I spent my time working menial jobs to save enough to travel, and playing guitar for beer and loose change while on the road. It was when the cheap Japanese guitar I had been carrying around with me finally disintegrated, that I was forced to take a job at a chicken factory in order to raise the funds for another.

My job, as best as I could understand it, was to make sure the hundreds of chicken carcasses that periodically tumbled through the ceiling fell onto the correct conveyor belt, to be hacked into pieces and packed into Styrofoam trays by the team waiting below. Understandably, I absolutely detested going into work in the morning. Before you got within half a mile of the factory, you were suffocated by an animal stench that was so foul, that it made me nauseous. My fellow workers assured me that after a while I would cease to notice it, a fact that offered me no solace at all, given that it came from the mouths of people that seemed the fact that their lives were resigned to being a miserable drudge, dictated by the wail of the alarm bell that signified that the conveyor belts were about to start rolling. I would see them in the cafeteria during the strict 15 minutes breaks eating discounted chicken nuggets. Grey faced and dull eyed, they sat in silence staring catatonic into the middle distance, while I sat outside and watched the crows that had taken up residence around the building. Every day that I finished was a major triumph in that place, despite the fact that seeing as I was loathe to extend my sentence by paying for luxuries…like rent, I had elected to sleep in a tent a couple of mile away from the site. Simply staying clean took up a great deal of my time.

I found myself at my usual position in the factory after an all night party in a field, and was feeling more than a little fragile, after listening to trance all night after taking acid. I figured I could hold it together: the work was repetitive, but simple, and given that the noise of the machinery made it difficult to speak to anyone while on the factory floor, I assumed that my state would go unnoticed. It was going well until the moment where there appeared to be, not chicken, but hundreds of decapitated human heads tumbling down the chute (1). After the initial shock on discovering that reality had finally decided to tear itself apart, I simply turned and walked towards the exit, hardly pausing to register the chaos that leaving my post had caused.

Thankfully, I had managed to save enough to buy a new guitar, and after a couple of days of franticly arranging my departure, I decided to spend my last night at a pub that had an open mic night, which I knew was easy enough to drink for free if you were prepared to get up and play a couple of songs. Towards the end of the night, I had stepped outside to get some air, and was half-heartedly trying to clamber into the WWII planes that stood in the car park (2) when man I’d been talking to earlier joined me for a cigarette. He started spouting the usual spiel I had heard a thousand times before by frustrated executives that would pick me up in their Mondeo’s while hitchhiking: The joy of the open road, the freedom of youth. I listened politely for a while, until at one point I felt compelled to ask something like:

‘When do you stop? What it is it that makes you decide that
this is the place that you want to spend the rest of my life in?’

He thought about it for a moment and then claimed, that it was when you found something or someone, that you love so much, that you couldn’t bear to leave it behind.

I hit the road the next day.

(1) I was shocked to discover later that this happened in an episode of the X-files. Damn you FBI Agents!

(1) I’m not kidding


1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

hmmmm…very interesting!
Thanks google

Comment by guevef

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