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  • Sunday, August 26, 2012

    That Weird Guy in Town

    I wonder if I’ve become that weird guy in town. Every town has at least one that you see now and again. A guy that looks like he just walked out of the woods after a month without a shower or laundry.

    My car has racked up 20,000 miles in 6 months. Another chunk of my bumper fell off when I hit a jackrabbit south of the Grand Canyon. With the bumper's gaping hole, I can now check my washer fluid without opening my hood, which is good because my hood doesn’t open anymore without two people and considerable effort.

    A wheel rim cover flew off when road construction forced me to buzz down a California highway’s rumble strips. It soared along side me for a brief moment, like a Frisbee thrown vertically, then became just another piece of roadside litter.

    The record-breaking summer heat, combined with a lot of time parked in the sun at trailheads, has rapidly caused the clear coat to peel off. And I think someone keyed it recently, but there are so many cosmetic problems, it's hard to remember if the scratch was already there.

    What I'm trying to say is, my car is a junker now. And between National Parks, I can be seen sleeping in it, reclined in the driver’s seat, with nearly all the possessions I have left packed neatly in the small space around me. Or you might see the car parked at a rest stop, walk into the restroom, and see me at a sink washing my hair, cleaning my cook pot, or brushing my teeth.

    But that isn’t why I feel like the weirdo in town.

    While walking through the two-story high aisles of a superstore, I realized I never changed out of my filthy hiking shorts. The pair with the hole on the left thigh I got while climbing over a huge pine tree that had fallen over a trail in Vermont. They are the same pair with the hole I got while sitting on a rock with a jagged edge in Montana. Two holes that I fixed on the trail with duct tape.

    I've lost more weight on this trip, so like the hiking shorts before them, they have begun to slide down my waist. I fixed this by making a makeshift belt out of a rain tarp guyline.

    If you saw me in the woods, you might say, “This guy had a problem and he used his limited resources to fix it. This guy is like MacGyver.” If you saw me in town, however, you'd probably say, “This guy had a problem and he had to use his lack of resources to scrounge up a free solution. This guy is like James Belushi without Curly Sue.

    But that isn't why I feel like the weirdo in town.

    I sat in an almost empty restaurant when two boys in little league clothes walked in to sell fundraiser calendars.

    “Alright, I’ll go over there and ask them. Go ask that guy,” the taller boy said and motioned to me with his chin. I didn’t need a calendar. I don’t even know, or care, what day it is most of the time, but really I just didn't want to spend money if I didn't have to.

    While I waited for him to come to my table, I thought of how I’d tell him I didn’t want one without hurting his feelings. I thought I might just say, "Sorry kid, I'm homeless." and then say, "Have any spare change?" It wouldn't feel like a lie. Afterall, I am the guy that slept behind an abandoned bank in New Hampshire, in a baseball dugout in Maine, on the loading dock of a Vermont Big Lots store, and inside a concrete whale in Oklahoma.

    He walked toward my table, but sat down in the adjacent booth and never asked me. A minute later, the taller boy returned. “They didn't want one. Did you ask him?” he said, not quite soft enough to keep me from hearing.

    The boy got up from the booth and quietly said, “He didn’t want one either.” Then shuffled toward the exit.

    But no, that's not why I feel like the weird guy in town. What leaves me with very little doubt about being the weird guy is that, not only do I not care about any of these things, I'm thoroughly enjoying every moment of it.