May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose…

Picture of author in desert not singing the bird songI used to sing this song to my daughter when she was little. Although my version was a little more comically oriented than even the original of this comedy song. I made ripping noises for the “hose” bit, an elephant trumpeting noise for the “caress you with it’s toes” part, and a sneeze always accompanied the “up your nose” lyric. As a little one, she found this hysterically funny and as a frustrated actor, I could be counted upon to perform this little tune at the drop of a hat.

You may well ask just why I’ve brought this up at a time when I’m recounting my most recent experiences in the desert of the great American West? It is simple really, this has to do with the polite version of what runs through my head as cars speed past an old geezer who would kill for a lift, with anyone (hell even Jack the Ripper) just to get off his aching feet.

Once I arrived here, sans car, did rush around to get a second hand bike. Typically, there were no bikes on sale anywhere and only by chance did one appear. A Chinese made yellow thing with dodgy gears and a seat designed to make gang rape from a gang of Hell’s Angels seem like a walk in the park by comparison. (I still haven’t gotten used to the seat and my search for a gel cover or the equivalent has been hindered by location and funds, meanwhile…OUCH)

In one week, I fell twice in the desert. Once because of not paying attention to where I was going and the other time because I was unused to the terrain. (Not to say I’m paranoid, but after the second, very painful incident, to a casual observer I must appear to be looking very intently for change on the desert floor. Of course in the middle of the desert these observers would most like be animals who think I’m some odd looking creature hunting for food?)

To be fair to myself, I was banged up pretty badly. Left knee swollen and bruises all the way down my left leg, left wrist bruised and hand swollen with very limited movement and a nasty knock to the cheekbone and forehead. My old body repaired itself “on the move” while still walking or riding around 12 to 14 miles each day.

Author self portrait
Self portrait of wounds sustained by punching the desert floor with my face.

The fact that it was wearing on me registered with low grade cold symptoms, shivering then sweating. Aching all over, not just on the wounded parts, and feeling “to the bone” tired; so much so that I’ve taken three days off from walking anywhere apart from in the RV.

But, I digress, this written “rant” has to do with walking and riding along the road. For the most part, since my arrival, people have been friendly. There is some idiot, not what I refer to him in my mind, I assure you, who I stumble across intermittently when biking.

Coming up behind me, he lays on his horn and then seems to be making some sort of rude gesture as he passes. I can’t really see, the hand signal is really wasted on an old fellow who’s seen, heard and particapted in most rude behaviour, words and gestures in the world – hello, Prison Officer, nor am I bothered.

The other behaviour includes his aping my open-mouth gasping for air as I go up hills. This is done as he passes the other way. Such infantile behaviour must wildly amuse this chap as he never ceases to do it. As for me, I’m just glad that I can entertain someone with so little effort.

My first couple of weeks here, I got lots of offers for lifts, both to and from town. Some I took, others I politely declined, either because I was nearly home or the amount of dogs in the vehicle made it too messy to consider. The point here is that when I first got here, my trips took a long time and were not quite so taxing on the system. As the days passed and the journey became everyday, this changed.

Since part of my reason for being here is to start writing for another site, Viral Global News while beginning to tear myself away from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. The fact that the RV doesn’t have Internet, apart from this odd sort of 2G/3G hotspot rubbish I’m tapping into now, means that walking or riding to town for WiFi is a necessity. And before someone starts in on “why don’t you get Internet at the RV,” remember funds are a serious issue as my last site of employment still owes me money and the Queen’s ill-health pension is TINY.

*On a sidenote, if you’ve not done so already, head over to the above mentioned website. There you’ll find a few of my entertainment pieces and a group of nice folks who are not intent upon living off their writing team.*

As time has moved on, the 12 – 14 mile round trip to town and back has gotten harder. The very fact that I’ve had to slink around the RV for three days and sleep a lot, means that as well as hard, it’s been exhausting. It has also been a lesson in human nature, mine and the drivers who pass me by.

Stock picture of ambulance

Blisters, aching joints, bruises and walking slower and slower because of the aforementioned ailments, makes the traveler unreasonable in his (in other words my) expectations of the vehicles passing by. I should point out that after a very scary experience in Arkansas in 1980 and then later a very unnerving one in England, I never stop for hitchhikers unless I know them, personally. At least two folks who stopped to pick me up when I first got here were neighbors who know my parents.

Rather unsurprisingly, after an incident (which I will not go into here) in the neighborhood, these rides have stopped. Such is life and no harsh feelings for the change of sentiment. This left, like Blanche from “Streetcar Named Desire,” a reliance upon the kindness of strangers and, to be fair, a few stopped.

An old chap (as in much older than I), a miner, or prospector, and an older female locksmith. That has been it. I decided that the backpack I’ve been using to cart my suddenly very heavy MacBook Pro to and from town may have the drivers thinking I am a desert rat. The attitude toward these nomadic denizens in the area is not a generous one.

I changed my attire and traded my backpack for the Next “manbag” and put on a pair of cowboy boots instead of my swat boots. The result was blisters on both my heels and no ride. The next day the swats were back, as was the backpack, and I rode the blisters to town and back. Then came my enforced three day break.

I will use this medium to apologise now to all the cars and their drivers who passed me by, except for the bozo who takes the piss when I ride my bike. My thoughts about you, your family and your ancestors were unfair and colored by pain and frustration. To give myself credit, I always smiled, waved, and/or waved back at the cars as they passed, while thinking the blackest and darkest of thoughts, and acting like this lack of human kindness did not bother me.

“May the Bird of Paradise Fly up Your Nose” may not be what I was thinking but I am pretty sure I was thinking some variation of this sentiment. On the other side of the coin, and then I will shut up about this topic, I also did not run into any nuts or homicidal maniacs either, although I did keep my pepper spray handy when given a ride or an offer of one from a stranger. I’ll end on this positive note, as one dear friend, and my daughter, noted; if I survive this grueling daily trek, I’ll be in the best shape of my life.

4 February 2015