E05: If I Was in a Hurry…

23 min read
Momentum: Season 1, Episode 5.

(The content deals with mature subject matter, including sex, drugs, and physical/emotional violence.)

Before We Begin, A Question for You:

Have you ever found it hard to end an unfulfilling relationship?

October 10, Lincoln City, OR.
Day 40.

What’s the intention in this step?

the intention in this step is peace.

The intention in this step is calm.

The intention in this step is grounding.

The intention in this step is wisdom.

The intention in this step is courage.

The intention in this step is healing.

The intention in this step is insight.

The intention in this step is tolerance.

The intention in this step is sobriety.

The intention in this step is maturity.

The intention in this step is connection.

The intention in this step is honesty.

The intention in this step is growth.

The intention in this step is…

LOOK BACK, LOOK BACK!

The intention in this step is…

JORDAN, I’M WARNING YOU!

Shut up! The intention in this step is… is…

Jordan looked over his shoulder.

Oh, fuck!

The intention in this step is to RUN!


Graham.

Graham

the previous day—actually, if we’re going to be precise, the previous afternoon—Jordan stumbled out of his tent, bleary-eyed, with the biggest smile he’d had in months. Birds were singing. The sun was shining. Butterflies were fluttering happily. The whole world was glorious because Jordan had just had sex with Mushroom Sam.

The outlines of their bodies were still depressed into the campsite grass. He could still smell her on his fingers as he made his morning… sorry, his afternoon oatmeal.

It wasn’t just a fine day for walking. It was a sensational, beautiful, perfect Pacific Northwestern day when the middle of October still felt like the end of August. It would have been a perfect time for Jordan to put some miles under his feet, to put as much distance as possible between him and Jack the Chicken the Man. But the post-orgasmic bliss had changed his opinion of Lincoln City. It’d also help him downgrade his internal threat level. So rather than hitting the road, after breakfast—lunch? Brunch!—Jordan decided to call Graham, a young man he’d met on his way into Lincoln City.

Graham arrived at Devils Lake within the hour. The top was down on his Jeep. Jordan tossed his gear into the back. They crossed the World’s Shortest River and turned north, speeding out of town.

Graham was a musician. “Most recently from Portland,” he shouted over the sound of the wind.

They turned the corner, catching views of Cascade Head—a thirteen-hundred-foot headland that towered over the coastline.

“You must have seen a bunch of these headlands along the coast,” Graham shouted. “They’re a very distinctive feature of the geology around here. The mountains are made of basalt. Basalt’s a volcanic rock. It forms when hot lava runs into the cold ocean. It cools quickly, piling upon itself. That’s why there are so many sheer cliffs along this part of the coastline. Geologists think that enormous volumes of lava seeped out of cracks in the ground somewhere up near Idaho, like, a few million years ago. There was a river of lava that flowed all the way to Oregon. Cascade Head’s also a biosphere reserve and a protected area for the threatened silverspot butterfly.”

“Cool!” Jordan shouted back.

Cascade Head, a UNESCO biosphere reserve, just north of Lincoln City.

Graham was out on the coast for a three-month residency at an arts center that was tucked into a fold of Cascade Head. “I’m working on a project about environmentally-inspired music,” he explained, in a softer voice, as the Jeep prowled up the driveway. Tall, slender residence buildings stood among taller, slender-er Sitka spruce trees, with their purplish, potato-chip-skin bark.

Graham switched off the engine. “My music is completely sustainable. I’ve got a solar panel in the back, and I use it to power my amps and my recording equipment. The dream is to distribute music in a way that doesn’t require any fossil fuels. Like a traveling minstrel. Like you. I’m inspired by your trip. Maybe I’ll do what you’re doing one day.”

“Cool,” Jordan said.

He still hadn’t acclimated to the idea that he might be somebody’s role model.

Graham’s residence had the anonymous feeling of a well-lived-in college dorm. There was a kitchen, a bedroom and a place for Jordan to sleep on the couch. Graham suggested going for a hike. Jordan gathered his camera. As they walked down from the arts center toward the trailhead, he listened as Graham griped about Portland. He got the sense that there was a dark cloud hanging over Graham’s head, but he didn’t want to ask an impertinent question.

After all, I’m his guest.

A short, steep climb through old-growth coastal forest brought them to a meadow with stunning views down to the sea. The views got even better as they trod west along the hillside toward where sheer cliffs plummeted to desolate beaches. Big waves were besieging the basalt outcroppings and smashing on an empty, sand beach. The landscape was grand and awe-inspiring.

As they climbed higher toward the viewpoint, Jordan turned back to look to the south. In the distance, he could see Lincoln City sprawled out along the long flat beach. If he squinted, he could see the World’s Shortest River. Off in the distance, he could just make out the boulder where he’d kissed Sam last night.

Just then, his phone buzzed in his pocket. It was a text from an unknown number.

Thanks again for last night. Be sure to watch out for dancing leaves.

Somehow, Jordan’s wide smile got even wider-er.

On the way to the Cascade Head Viewpoint.

When they reached the viewpoint, they saw that another hiker was already there: a jolly man named Steve, with a big smile and a bright green t-shirt. Steve lived in Baltimore, but he’d grown up in Oregon. He used the tip of his hiking pole to point out a cluster of rustic-looking buildings hidden in the forest more than a thousand feet below them. “That’s where I went to summer camp.” Steve traced the tip of his pole west, pointing out the walking trail that penetrated through a stretch of dense forest before emerging on the desolate beach. “That’s where I had my first kiss.” He grinned. “Susie Jenkinson. Under the stars. It was perfect. Where’d you have your first kiss?”

“I was also at summer camp,” said Jordan. “The girl’s name was Michelle.”

“High school,” Graham volunteered shyly.

Jordan suddenly found himself in that rarest of settings in modern America: on a mountaintop with two strange, straight white men, talking vulnerably about love.

After Jack the Chicken Man, Jordan had sworn off collecting love stories forever. He didn’t want to be a receptacle for someone’s pain. I’ve had more than my share of that. But on the mountaintop, with the awe-inspiring views, he felt the vibe was right to rethink his renunciation.

“Sure,” Steve said immediately. “I’ll tell you a love story.”

Jordan pulled out his phone and shuffled in close so that he could capture Steve’s voice over the sound of the wind. Graham was lying in the meadow, picking at the grasses. He was the third wheel in the conversation, not nearly as comfortable with the vulnerable conversation as the two other men.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Jordan said to Steve. “Tell me your love story.”

Steve took a deep breath. “A few years ago, I was a paramedic working in Maryland. And while responding to a call, I had a catastrophic crash in my ambulance.”

Oh, no. Not again.

STEVE: When it came time to get behind the wheel and drive again, man, that was… that was tough. It was really, really difficult. So, as a result, if I wasn’t driving, I couldn’t work my way up the promotion ladder. I had to be a driver to earn more money and promote and whatnot. A wife and three kids… Promotion equals income which equals support for the family and this, that and the other. I had a long stretch where I just really, really couldn’t get past that barrier.

So I talked to one of our employee assistance programs, and they referred me to one of their head shrinks, a psychiatrist. And he… super nice guy. He says…

Listen to Steve’s Story.

Steve’s Story was expertly told. It was polished, emotional and it didn’t ask anything from the other two men. It was just four minutes long, and, by the end, Steve was in tears. He wept openly as he shared his feelings about his father. The landscape was awe-inspiring, but the Story was even better.

Maybe there’s something to this love story thing after all.

Steve in his happy place, atop Cascade Head.

The three men lingered up there for nearly an hour. Mostly, the conversation flowed between Jordan and Steve. Graham listened as Jordan confessed a little of his own Story. As he told them a snippet about Sally, Jordan was astonished to hear how the way he talked about his ex-girlfriend was changing.

The sun had dropped low enough that the dramatic landscape had turned golden. The three men descended the switchbacking trail, then turned east to cross the meadows, finally reaching the trailhead near the arts center. After a genuine hug goodbye, Jordan followed Graham back to his residence. They made ramen for dinner and chit-chatted about topics like art and philosophy. Something about Graham’s dark cloud had shifted.

Then, in the evening, Graham turned to Jordan and said, “Can I tell you one of my love stories too?”

This was novel. Jordan hadn’t yet understood that people might want to tell him their Stories.

Steve and Graham descend Cascade Head.

Outside, in the protected environment of the arts center, in the protected habitat of the silverspot butterfly, Graham led the way beneath a starry sky to one of the studio buildings nearby. It was a handsome room with exposed beams and high ceilings, scattered with art supplies. Graham pulled up a chair, tuned his guitar, then put it on his lap, addressing Jordan like a singer at a coffee house.

“My story is about the girl who got away,” he said.

Graham’s Story was nowhere as neatly polished as Steve’s. He talked about meeting the girl, falling in love with her—the rise in their relationship that was leading to the inevitable fall. Jordan could tell that he was listening to something precious. He listened earnestly, without interruption—channeling his mentor, Paul. And he couldn’t help noticing the overlaps between their two Stories. He could tell that the dark cloud over Graham was the grief for his relationship. Hearing Graham speak, Jordan realized that he was no longer in the same, despondent state that he had been even a few days earlier. His own dark cloud had shifted.

I wanted sex. But what I really got was a new perspective.

He felt deeply grateful for Mushroom Sam.

GRAHAM: So we got an RV, this old 1970s kind of small RV. Re-did it on the inside and drove it to North Carolina and spent like two months on the beach, I think.

While we were there I was working on some of the same music that I am working on now, actually. [Awkward laugh]. I asked her to help me title this piece of music that I was working on that was about my time in Australia. The school out there was just not an amazing experience for me. So it was sort of a let down, you know? And I was reflecting on that with the music and kind of wrote this piece inspired by that, about things not turning out the way you expect them to. And it was sort of in a negative fashion, inspired by a negative reason.

So I asked her ‘Hey, can you help me think of a title for this?’ And she goes, ‘Well, obviously Genevieve would be a great name.’ Her name’s Genevieve, right? Like, ‘Oh, that’s witty.’ Great. Cool.

And then later I got to thinking about it and realized that she named the song about missed expectations after herself. I was like, ‘That’s going to suck.’

At the end of the Story, Graham played the song about things not turning out the way you expect them to.

Listening to it gave Jordan butterflies.

Listen to Graham’s song, Genevieve.


Paul

later that evening, once Graham went to bed, Jordan lay on the couch in his sleeping bag, reading over the article from the Daily Astorian again. His eyes kept hanging on that word: remarkable.

Sam had given him other words, too: “Inspiring.” “Beautiful.” These ones felt just as foreign.

If someone told me two months ago that someone would call me inspiring, I would have laughed in their face.

The word Jordan would have chosen to describe was average. Jordan thought that he was average in every way. He could rattle off his data on command. 5’8, 175 pounds, 5.932″—just a hair over 6″ if he pushed the ruler firmly into his pubic bone.

Average, average, average.

Replacing the article safely in his camera bag, he fished into his pants pocket and held Paul’s crystal as he switched off his headlight. He felt unsettled by the silence in Graham’s residence. He’d become used to the familiar sounds of the forest outside of his tent. Now, the only thing he could hear was the buzzing refrigerator.

He took a long, deep breath. Then another. He thought about his mentor, Paul.

Paul was a little taller, a little broader—Jordan couldn’t speculate about the size of his dick, though he assumed it was thicker, harder, better, because, once, Paul told him that he’d slept with hundreds of women. (“It was the Sixties,” Paul assured him. “They were all very loving experiences.”)

Paul’s father, Percy, had been Canada’s first on-screen weatherman. And Paul, too, had found himself as a young media darling. He was an on-air host for the CBC by his late teens, interviewing Sixties-era luminaries like Buckminster Fuller. In 1965, when he was 21, Paul spent a summer in Mississippi, registering Black voters as a volunteer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The experience was profund, catalyzing a passion for issues of race and prejudice which would become an important part of his future career in film and television. Much later, in the mid-2000s, Paul went back to Mississippi and made a documentary about a high school that was still holding segregated proms. The film debuted at Sundance and would go on to screen at the White House for the Obamas. Along with the film, Paul created a non-profit organization that delivered trainings to schools and police departments.

He was already doing anti-racism work decades before the awakening around George Floyd—a remarkable self-awareness, Jordan thought, for a straight white man of his generation.

But Paul’s most meaningful experience had come just a few years after he went to Mississippi. And it was that experience that had initially endeared him to Jordan. In February of 1968, Paul was traveling in India when he stumbled on one of the seminal moments of the Sixties. He arrived at a meditation ashram in the holy city of Rishikesh, on the Ganges River in the foothills of the Himalayas, and bumped into The Beatles.

The Beatles had come to India in 1968 to study with a renowned teacher, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was like the Kim Kardashian of Sixties-era Eastern spirituality. The Maharishi had become an international celebrity, appearing on the covers of magazines and attracting celebrity followers. The Fab Four’s journey to Rishikesh—they were accompanied by an entourage that included the folk singer, Donovan, Mike Love from the Beach Boys, and the actor Mia Farrow—was billed as a transcendent meeting between the cultural icons of West and East.

John and George spent seven weeks at the Maharishi’s ashram. Paul McCartney was there for five. Ringo and his wife left after eleven days because the food didn’t sit well in their stomachs.

The Beatles in India. 📷  Paul Saltzman.

Jordan’s friend, Paul, had arrived at the ashram under completely different pretenses. He’d come to India to assist on a documentary; six weeks into the journey, he received a letter from his girlfriend back in Toronto telling him she’d left for another man.

Despondent, Paul had stumbled into a lecture that was being delivered by the Maharishi. Something he said resonated with Paul. The next day, Paul hopped a train, then a bus, then an autorickshaw, then a riverboat to finally arrive at the ashram’s front door.

“What do you mean, I can’t come in because the Beatles and their wives are inside?” he said to the guard at the gate. “I need to learn meditation. I’m heartbroken!”

Paul camped at the edge of the jungle for eight days before he was granted entry into the ashram.

Paul’s week in the ashram happened to overlap with the presence of all four Beatles. Band historians report that this period was among the most productive of their careers. They wrote dozens of songs, including classics like Blackbird, Rocky Raccoon and most of what would become The White Album. They sang, “Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?” as Mia Farrow’s sister sat behind closed doors, devoted to her meditation. But those weeks they spent in India also laid the foundation for their breakup.

Less than a year later, the band would play their final show on the rooftop of their London recording studio.

Paul had brought a hobbyist camera to India to take a few snapshots of his trip. He never imagined that he’d be photographing The Beatles. But in that protected, creative environment, isolated from the demands of being the most famous people in the world, all four Beatles generally consented to Paul’s camera. His pictures are remarkable for the candid, intimate way that Paul’s camera settled on them. He found a way to humanize them. They were his heroes, sure. But they were also just people, struggling with similar concerns and inner tribulations.

To Jordan, Paul’s photographs definitely told a Story About the Universal Similarities Between People.

As he lay in the darkness, holding the crystal and listening to the buzzing fridge, Jordan reflected on the two Stories he’d collected that afternoon. He hoped more, similar Stories lay ahead. For the very first time, he realized that he was making something good. He didn’t yet know what it would become:

Is it a book? Is it a photo exhibition, like the one on the streetcar?

He decided to take Paul’s advice and let the answer come to him.

The intention in this step is creativity.

Blissfully, Jordan drifted into sleep.


A selfie in Graham’s solar panel.

DJ and Blackjack

the next morning wasn’t just a fine day for walking. It was a sensational, beautiful, perfect Pacific Northwestern day when the middle of October still felt like the end of August. It would have been a perfect time for Jordan to put some miles under his feet, to put as much distance as possible between him and Jack the Chicken the Man. But the post-love story bliss had changed his opinion of Lincoln City even further.

Rather than hitting the road, Jordan hung out with Graham until the early afternoon, unbothered by the looming threat of the wet winter.

On some level, though, he knew that the weather was about to change.

Graham dropped him back at Devils Lake in the middle of the afternoon. He could have easily continued walking. But the next State Park campground was twenty miles south, at Beverly Beach. Jordan knew he couldn’t reach it before nightfall.

He decided instead to spend the night at Devils Lake and continue walking in the morning. This would turn out to be a very consequential decision. But Jordan didn’t realize it at the time.

He set up his tent. He left the hiker-biker campsite to wander through Lincoln City. He crossed the World’s Shortest River once and then twice. He headed to the Humble Pie, hoping that Sam was still in town; if she wasn’t in town, then he hoped that lightning might strike twice. But the Humble Pie was closed. Jordan crossed the street, striking up a conversation outside a jewelry shop with a lesbian couple. They were in Oregon on their honeymoon from Indiana, and they invited him to join them at a Thai restaurant for dinner.

Over the meal, Jordan listened as they recounted the Story of their wedding, which took place at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. He listened, too, as they shared elements of their childhood: violence, abuse.

Afterward, as he wandered back to his tent at Devils Lake, Jordan thought contemplatively about Sally.

He was almost ready to think about the chef’s knife—but not quite.

Jessica and Jill: honeymooners from Indiana.

The moment he returned to the hiker-biker campsite, a black dog came racing out of the darkness. Jordan recoiled defensively. A voice cried out, “No, Jack. No!”

Blackjack’s fangs were bared. Jordan was terrified. He looked over to see a tall, slender man rising from the campfire and hobbling over toward him on a cane. “No, Blackjack. Bad, bad dog. Settle down.” The tall man smacked Blackjack on the jowl. The dog winced and stopped barking. Then, the man knelt down and pet Blackjack gently. “Sorry,” he said, not looking at Jordan. “Jack here is just a puppy.”

The tall man’s name was DJ. He was the only other resident in the hiker-biker. When Jordan asked how long he’d been traveling, DJ said, “Twenty-four years. I’ve seen every National Park in the lower forty-eight, ‘cept for some of them stupid ones in New England.” He straightened up and hobbled to the campfire. Jordan followed him. A can of beans was warming on the metal grate.

Jordan snickered.

What is this? Central casting?

DJ had a scruffy beard and a pair of round glasses. His nearby tent was an oversized Wal-Mart special. He wore dirty camo cargo pants and a matching camo ball cap, and he emitted that telltale stench that Jordan had come to associate with drifters—cigarette smoke mixed with body odor mixed with other nastiness that Jordan’s nose could hardly bear.

“But on this trip, I mean. What’s your intent… I mean, where are you coming from and where are you going?”

“Coming from Tallahassee, Florida.” DJ had an unplaceable accent. It sounded vaguely Southern. “Heading to Coos Bay, Oregon.” Coos Bay was a hundred and twenty miles south of Devils Lake.

“What’s in Coos Bay?”

“Me and Jack, we gotta brother we’re gonna hunker down with for the winter.” DJ didn’t look at Jordan. His eyes were fixed on the flames.

The can of beans had started to bubble. DJ reached to grab it with his hands. “Fuck!” He shook out his hand and then reached for the can again. Nursing it to the edge of the grill, he let it sit there while he rubbed his fingers. Blackjack had nestled up nest to his feet.

As soon as DJ had regained sensation, he reached into his pocket for a package of tobacco and skillfully rolled a cigarette. He inhaled and immediately started to cough. The cough lasted for nearly ten seconds. For a moment, Jordan wondered whether he was dying.

“Where was we?” DJ said, when the coughing spell passed.

“Coos Bay, Oregon.”

“Coos Bay fucking Oregon. Me and Jack, we shoulda been out here last month. We woulda been, if we hadn’t been kidnapped.”

Jordan hesitated. “You were kidnapped?”

Right?” DJ said this word in a way that made it clear it wasn’t a question. His voice sounded like a roller coaster—rolling low and then up again. It reminded Jordan vaguely of Yogi Bear. “Me and Jack, we headed outta Tallahassee, Florida on the I-10. Took that to Mobile, Alabama, then swung north so we could get to the I-40 outta Memphis, Tennessee. We caughta great ride outta Oklahoma City that took us clear across Texas to Albuquerque. But that’s when we got kidnapped.” He took a drag and spat on the ground next to the fire. “By a buncha hippies.

“You were kidnapped by a bunch of hippies in New Mexico.”

Right? In a school bus.”

“A bunch of hippies in a school bus kidnapped you in New Mexico.

Right?

Jordan hesitated. But DJ didn’t seem to be joking. “Where’d they take you?”

“Pennsylvania.”

“What’s in Pennsylvania?”

Suddenly, DJ erupted. “What the hell is it with all these questions?”

Jordan recoiled, half-expecting DJ to strike. “Sorry. It’s kind of my thing.”

“Well, it ain’t our thing.” DJ reached for the can. It was cooler now. He smoked the last of his cigarette, then flicked the butt into the fire. He took a spoonful of the beans. Jordan sat still watching the smoke rise into the still night.

“The Rainbow Gathering,” DJ said finally.

“Huh?”

“The hippies took us to the Rainbow Gathering in Pennsylvania.”

“What’s the Rainbow Gathering?”

DJ looked shocked. “You ain’t Rainbow? How long you been on the road?”

“Today’s Day Forty-One.”

“Aw!” He smiled for the first time. “You’re just a puppy. Don’t worry. Ol’ DJ will take you under his wing. Show you a bit of the ways of the world.”

Jordan tried to change the subject. “If you were heading to Oregon, why’d you go to Pennyslvania with the hippies?”

DJ made a face. “Don’t your ears work? I said we was kidnapped.”

Jordan nodded and looked in the flames.

“Rainbow’s like family.” DJ took a spoonful of beans. “Every traveler needs to find family on the road. Otherwise, the road will do strange things to your head.” He took another spoonful, then reached into his jacket pocket. When his hand came back into view, it was holding a glass pipe.

DJ set the can next to him on the log and lit the pipe, exhaling a big, dank cloud of marijuana smoke. He gestured the pipe toward Jordan. But Jordan shook his head.

“Thanks, but I’m sober.”

Right?” DJ said gruesomely. “Why?”

“It’s Rule Number On…” But Jordan could already see that DJ had lost interest.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, almost like he was talking to himself. “Me and Jack, we shoulda been out here last month. We woulda been, if we ain’t been kidnapped by them hippies. Spent a month out there in that Rainbow Gathering in Pennyslvania. Then we hopped on the I-90. Found a great ride with a trucker outside Chicago. Got us all the way to Spokane, Washington. Me and Jack, we gotta brother there too. Brother named Danny. Danny’s the one who taught us that the best place to hunker down during a rainstorm is underneath a highway bridge. Why a highway bridge? Let ol’ DJ tell ya! The traffic noises keeps the animals away. The only thing you gotta worry about is the spiders, but if you and your buddy sleep in shifts, you can look out for one another.”

Jordan was slowly realizing he’d been relegated to an audience.

DJ took the last bite of the beans, then tossed the can into the fire. Jordan peered over, watching the label burn. “Yeah, yeah. Me and Jack, we shoulda been out here last months. But it’s like I always say.” He grabbed for the tobacco. “If I was in a hurry, I wouldn’t be traveling. Right?”

“Right,” Jordan repeated. In his own way, he felt like that, too.


DJ and his dog, Blackjack, at the communal campsite at Devil’s Lake.

Leaving town

the next morning wasn’t just a fine day for walking. It was a sensational, beautiful, perfect Pacific Northwestern day, when the middle of October still felt like the end of August. It would have been a perfect time for Jordan to put some miles under his feet, to put as much distance as possible between and Blackjack and DJ.

This time, there was no second-guessing. Jordan wolfed down his oatmeal. He hurried to pack up his camp. DJ was up and about, griping about his gear, talking to himself. Jordan was trying to be pleasant. He was looking forward to the moment he could finally say goodbye.

But with his gear packed, his bag secured at the hips and at the chest, his camera bag over his head and his crystal in his pocket, Jordan was just turning to go when DJ’s face melted into a frown.

“Hey! Me and Jack, we ain’t ready yet.”

“But I didn’t…” Jordan hesitated. Suddenly, he realized that he’d been befriended.

With his pack still on his back, he sat on the picnic table and looked wistfully at the clear sky. The next State Park at Beverly Beach seemed light-years away. The wet winter seemed closer than ever.

He assured himself that DJ wouldn’t be walking with him long.

The guy’s got a cane, for Christ’s sake. His pack looks like it weighs eighty pounds. He’ll be lucky if he lasts an hour. I can walk with him for an hour and still get to Beverly Beach. At least I’ll get one of his Stories.

Finally, DJ seemed ready to go. He filled a pair of water bottles and slipped them into a red saddle bag that he affixed over Blackjack. “Blackjack’s a pup, but he’s still got to do some hard work. He’s gotta carry his own water, right?

“Right,” Jordan replied. But DJ wasn’t really asking.

Leaving Lincoln City took forever. First, after crossing the World’s Shortest River one final time, DJ wanted to stop at the grocer. He’d just received a welfare stipend from Alabama, he explained, and the Price N’ Pride was the only grocer in Oregon that took out-of-state food stamps. “Street rate’s fifty cents on the dollar.”

He handed Blackjack’s leash to Jordan. Jordan sat on a bench next to the pile of pumpkins, watching the sun creep across the sky.

Next, DJ wanted to cross the street to go to the smoke shop. He opted for a package of pipe tobacco. “It tastes like shit, but it’s the cheapest.” There was a stop at one public restroom to take off his longjohns, then another stop to refill Blackjack’s water.

By the time they got to the beach, the sun was high overhead and Jordan’s dreams of Beverly Beach were fading.

Now I’ll be lucky if I can make it to Depoe Bay.

By the early afternoon, the three of them had reached the Salishan Spit. The Salishan Spit is a three-and-a-half-mile-long sand spit that separates the ocean from the calmer water in the inland Siletz Bay. The northern tip of the narrow spit was home to a resident colony of hundreds of harbor seals who fed on the fish funneling through the narrow, fast-moving “jaws” at the mouth of the bay.

Beyond the small protected area to the north, the rest of the spit was one of the only stretches of private coastal land in Oregon, home to the residents of the Salishan Spa & Golf Resort. There was no way back to the highway except for through the gated community.

By then, the three of them had been walking underneath the hot sun for hours. DJ and Blackjack were exhausted.

The hide tide had forced them into the soft, shifting sand, where every footstep felt like walking through snowdrifts. DJ griped at Jordan, “Slow down. Me and Jack, we can’t keep up to you.” He griped at the surfer, way out to sea, who was being pulled by a jet ski into the big waves. “That’s cheatin’!”

When they reached the long column of handsome homes that looked out over the beach, he pointed at one of them and griped, “Who the hell thought it was a good idea to build a round room? Where d’ya suppose they found a round couch and a round TV?”

“Right?” Jordan said. He was second-guessing his decision to bring them there.

Now, I can’t get rid of him until we get back to the highway.

Jordan was trying his best to be pleasant. He was holding his crystal and trying to emulate Paul. He was searching for a Story About the Universal Similarities Between People. But all of DJ’s Stories had the same general theme: they fucked me over. I didn’t deserve it. Fuck them.

“How’d you hurt your knee?” he asked, once they’d hurried between two of the shuttered houses, reaching a paved access road along the estuary that made for easier walking.

DJ tapped his right knee with his cane. “This one, I did last year when I got hit on my bicycle.” He tapped his left one. “This one, I did when I was playing football in the joint.”

“You were in jail?”

Right? Failure to return a rental vehicle.” DJ spat on the pavement. “Fuckin’ DA called it Grand Theft Auto.” His voice shifted up an octave, becoming a whine. “But I left the car in front of a U-Haul with the keys under the floormat. Fuckin’ judge put me away for thirty-four months.”

Jordan was trying to figure out how he could pull out his phone. He wanted to get one of DJ’s Stories on tape. But then DJ thrust his cane toward a sandwich bag laying on the side of the road.

He bent over and examined the plastic bag. “Sometimes, people leave their roaches in here.”

The bag was empty. DJ tossed it back into the bushes.

When they reached the gatehouse, it was nearly four. The whole day had passed and Jordan had walked exactly six miles. Beverly Beach was a distant dream. Even Depoe Bay would be a stretch before sunset.

Having safely deposited his drifting charge on the far side of the gated community, Jordan felt like his work was done.

“Well, DJ. It’s been really nice to get to…”

DJ made a face like he’d just learned the truth about Santa. “You’re goin’?”

Jordan was shocked. “Yeah, I’m…” He looked down at his feet. “I… I’m sorry. It’s just… I’m really sorry. But with the rain coming soon, I really have to…”

DJ turned his body, looking in the opposite direction. “Fine. You leave us. Me and Jack, we don’t need you anyhow.”

“I’m sorry, DJ. I’m just… I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

“It’s like I always say. If I was in a hurry, I wouldn’t be traveling.”

“Right?” Jordan said brightly. But DJ refused to look at him.

Jordan hesitated.

Should I maybe… I mean, what’s one more night? And I still haven’t recorded his Story.

Then he heard a voice inside of him that said, “Keep walking.”

“So long, DJ.”

After spending all day stuck in second gear, Jordan felt like a Ferrari released from gridlock traffic. Finally, he could let his engine run.

He set off down the shoulder of the road as quickly as he could.


Neither DJ nor Blackjack looked at Jordan when he tried to say goodbye.

The intention in this step is…?

the intention in this step is peace.

The intention in this step is calm.

The intention in this step is grounding.

The intention in this step is wisdom.

The intention in this step is courage.

The intention in this step is healing.

The intention in this step is insight.

The intention in this step is tolerance.

The intention in this step is sobriety.

The intention in this step is maturity.

The intention in this step is connection.

The intention in this step is honesty.

The intention in this step is growth.

The intention in this step is…

LOOK BACK, LOOK BACK!

The intention in this step is…

JORDAN, I’M WARNING YOU!

Shut up! The intention in this step is… is…

Jordan looked over his shoulder. There were DJ and Blackjack, a hundred and fifty yards behind him, following after him on the highway shoulder.

Oh, fuck!

The intention in this step is to RUN!


Highway 101 ran arrow-straight toward Depoe Bay

A three-mile-an-hour footrace

traffic raced by at seventy miles an hour. Jordan was on the highway shoulder in a three-mile-an-hour footrace. He was a Ferrari. DJ was a rusty pickup. Each time Jordan looked back over his shoulder, the distance between them grew. DJ and Blackjack were steadily shrinking into the horizon.

But the further he fell from sight, the more that DJ seemed like an amalgam of everything Jordan was running from. He was Jack the Chicken Man. He was Sally. He was his memories of his first girlfriend. DJ was his friends, his parents, his fears of the future, his terror of looking at his past.

If he could have stopped to think soberly, Jordan would have realized that he’d been running from things for a long time.

But he couldn’t stop running. Running was sobriety.

“Hurry up!” he shouted at himself over the traffic noise. “Ignore the pain in your legs! Pain is just in your imagination. Push! Fucking push, you piece of shit. You pussy. You cuckold. You momma’s boy!”

Jordan loved to punish himself. Punishing himself was his favorite addiction.

But as DJ and Blackjack became just tiny specks on the horizon, Jordan finally allowed himself to calm down. He could think a little more soberly about his predicament. He was going to make it to Depoe Bay. But he knew there was no campground there. As it was, there were just a handful of campgrounds on the coast. He’d be easy to find when he stopped to sleep.

DJ could walk all night. He got shivers. DJ could be like the T-1000!

He started pushing again. He pushed past the beach towns that ran south of Lincoln City.

Then, suddenly, he had an idea. It was a move he’d seen once in Top Gun. When he passed a roadside art studio, he ducked inside and made easy, casual small talk with the shopkeeper.

After twenty minutes, he finally saw DJ’s head pass by the window.

Jordan lingered in the parking lot for twenty minutes more. But when he returned to the highway shoulder, he immediately realized that his move had backfired. Now, DJ and Blackjack were completely out of sight.

They could be hiding anywhere. They know I’m coming. They are just waiting for me, waiting to do…

Jordan couldn’t imagine what DJ might be waiting to do. That’s what terrified him the most.

His heart was racing as he took focused steps on the shoulder of the highway.

The intention in this step is ease.

The intention in this step is safety.

The intention in this step is to control my emotions.

A few hundred yards past the art studio, Highway 101 narrowed to two lanes as it penetrated into the dark, protected forest of a State Park.

Jordan picked up his pace. He didn’t dare look into the darkness of the trees. Every movement in his peripheral vision made him think of an attacking Blackjack.

There were so many trees. So many hiding places. He could feel the butterflies in his chest going wild, and he squeezed Paul’s crystal as tightly as he could.

But then the highway burst out of the forest onto the State Wayside at Boiler Bay. Big waves erupted against the cliffs of the headland.

There were whale spouts offshore. And there was no sign of DJ or Blackjack.

“Thank God,” Jordan said out loud. He let out a long sigh of relief.

He was pretty sure that he lost them.


Looking north from Boiler Bay toward Cascade Head. No sign of DJ or Blackjack.

Now, A Question for You:

Have you ever found it hard to end an unfulfilling relationship?