Location: Hanover, NH
Last night I camped in the woods just off the soccer field. The bugs were bad, so I didn’t stay awake late to talk to the obnoxious people while they smoked pot. As it turns out, three were from North Carolina and they were all Duke Basketball fans but not Duke graduates. There is a stereotype for you! I walked back into town for breakfast at Lou’s. The restaurant has earned much acclaim from critics judging by the articles on the walls and even more by thru-hikers. I was told in the Whites that the restaurant had a great, but pricey, breakfast. Before I went to breakfast, I bought some more bug spray, 100% DEET, and a pair of Crocs. The shoes are amazingly comfortable. They also hang from every thru-hiker pack, so I had to have a pair.
I hesitantly entered Lou’s. The restaurant was a lot nice than what I had expected. I didn’t want to deal with being asked to leave, but I didn’t see a sign that said No Hikers, so I went in. A man with one arm behind the register told me to leave my pack by the door but that I was more than welcomed to stay. I waited in line for a table, but when a seat opened up at the counter I sat down. I definitely thought that I had offended the woman next to me at the counter when she asked me if I was a hiker. She, however, had spent some time hiking in her younger days but still had an interest in the sport. I ordered a monster breakfast: French toast, eggs, bacon, toast and a four dollar glass of hand-squeezed orange juice. I just had to know what such an expensive glass of juice tasted like. I talked with the woman next to me about hiking while I ate and she sipped coffee. She left before I finished my towering plate. When I went to the register to pay for my meal, I was stunned to find out that the woman had paid my tab when she left. I had heard of things like that happening to other hikers but never thought it would happen to me.
In the warm morning, I walked through the Green to the library to check my e-mail. Afterwards, I found a table on the quad to relax and work on my journals. One of the heirs to the Anheuser-Busch fortune is getting married in Hanover today. The police are preparing the Green and the surrounding streets for the Budweiser Clydesdales that will pull the wedding carriage through the town. Budweiser has taken over the city. All of bottles and taps in all the bars have been replaced with Budweiser labels. Hopefully I’ll get some free beer later. If so, then I might be staying in Hanover another night.
My last journal ended with my day in Hanover. I still have not decided if I am going to leave today, but I do know that I will stay until the Clydesdales trot through town. I just tried to mail my last journal home, but the post office closed at noon. It’s 2:00 now, and I am sitting at my same table at the edge of the quad. There are white tufts of clouds in the blue sky and the sun is shining brightly, I can’t convince myself to return to the long green tunnel on such a beautiful day.
People are everywhere on this Saturday afternoon. Many I think are just waiting for the parade to roll through town. No one knows what time the horses are coming, only that it will be this afternoon. Students are throwing the Frisbee on the Green. Families are playing. Tourists are buying. Everything here reminds me of Wake Forest. Much of my time outdoors was spent on the Benson porch, overlooking the quad. I don’t know why I spent so much time there, but I did. I sat and waited for people to come by my table and chat or eat. I watched people mess around on campus. It was a waste of time. However, I still like to sit and watch in all situations. I can stay in a seat for hours and have just as much fun, and maybe more fun, than by milling around a group or setting. I like seeing the same people pass two or three times. I feel like I’m getting a glimpse into their lives. I’ll probably sit here most of the afternoon, just watching and listening. The most ordinary things entertain me, especially when they are the ordinary things in the lives of ordinary people. I am always interested to know what the regular person does, day in and day out. I wonder how unique each person really is or how similar everyone is. I don’t know yet why I bother with these things or what I should do with these interests, but hopefully I will find out soon.
Great, I just got moved from my table. Now I am up on the brick porch of Collis with tall white columns. I now have an unobstructed view of The Hanover Inn and the many state troopers guarding the entrance. By the way, I was moved because the fine arts department is setting up for a jazz concert tonight.
When I look around this campus, I see the lifestyle that I have become accustomed to. I see people who look as though they have come from similar backgrounds at I have, and they all appear destined for the same life I once thought that I wanted. I always believed that my place in this world would involve me being a high official in some corporate system. From my perspective as an adolescent, I judged success by the size of the office, the fabric of the suit, the make or the car and the luxuries afforded. Why should I not have determined these criteria for the measurement of success? The world I know is capitalistic. It is based on dollars and cents. The more money a person could accumulate, the better that person managed to adapt and thrive in the capitalist system, thus that person was a successful capitalist and a successful person. This is how I judged success. Culture convinced me that this was the definition of success. Now, I don’t know what I consider success to be. The idea of participating day in and day out in corporate America sickens me right now. I can’t imagine waking up to drive through traffic to work in an office and then drive home through traffic where I might find a few hours to myself. I don’t want to be lazy either. I do want to wake up in the morning and go to work, but that work won’t be in an office. It can’t be in an office, because if it were, I could not survive. I am still trying to decide what my passions truly are, but I know that they don’t lie in an office at the top of a building.
Every adult that I have met on the trail tells me to follow my passions, to make sure that whatever I decide to do with my life that I am passionate about it. What are my passions? I love to fish. Is fishing a passion? I wonder. Soon I’ll put fishing to the test. I’ll spend time as a mate on a commercial fishing vessel. There I’ll decide if I have a passion for fishing. I love to write. Is writing a passion? I write in this journal as often as I can. I try to allow full feeling to emerge in the writing, even if the topics or arguments are fragmented and incomplete. Writing pleases me more than anything else in life, but I don’t know if it is something I can pursue as a job. Suppose I try to turn a hobby into a job and hate it. Could I ever enjoy writing again if I did that? Could I ever enjoy fishing again if I did the same to fishing? I will never know without trying, but I must stop as soon as the task becomes disgusting. I should not stop when I am tired, sore or angry. Through those troubles I should persevere. But, when the idea becomes so revolting that I stop dreaming about it, then I should stop attempting it as a profession. Where do my passions truly exist? And which of the things I love will I risk to discover whether or not they are indeed passions?
I believe that the AT is a great place to discover in which direction I want to take my life. Soon I will pass the last of the northbounders and I will be more alone to think and to write. I have decided that I will not carry a book with me on this trip. My free time I will dedicate to writing. While northbounders are still plentiful, I will take my time on this trail. There is no need to rush until I am alone. Still I’ll stop to take in the beauty of the trail and America, but I’ll be able to make miles farther down the trail. I think that I’m fortunate because I have the flexibility and adaptability to take my time on the trail. Many cannot, and they rush to complete the trip. This trip, however, is more than just Springer Mountain, Georgia. If the end was all that mattered then I would have started there. The real rewards are between Katahdin and Springer. Every day I am excited for the adventure. When this trip ends, the adventure has only begun.
I am still sitting on the patio outside of Collis. The Budweiser Clydesdales just arrived. Everyone within sight charged for the carriage. The horses have been stopped on the Green for all to see and pet. Some people pretend not to care, but everyone seems to make their way over to the horses. All but the corner of the quad where the horses are has cleared. The Frisbees have stopped flying, the girls have stopped sunbathing. There are pretty girls all over this campus. Maybe they are just all good looking because I have been in the woods for nearly two months. On the trail, there are several kinds of women. Generally they are cute, trail cute or completely not cute. Trail cute means that they look good, but that they are so only because they are on the trail. It’s a crude system, but it’s fun to contemplate at the shelter when a person says they saw a pretty girl on the trail. Perspectives of all things change when you spend a lot of time in the woods.
Speaking of perspectives, the position I cannot stand is that of a person uninformed and also unwilling to listen or learn. Two thru-hikers just showed up here on the porch. They are unfriendly and awkward. I tried to greet them, but they only pay attention to one another. The man saw the Budweiser Clydesdales and immediately started talking about the marketing ploy that Budweiser was putting on. ‘College town, great idea,’ he says. Then he talked about everywhere he’d seen Clydesdales and such and such. He kept talking and talking about the marketing idea. I told him that the heir to the Anheuser-Busch fortune was getting married. He chose not to hear me and huffed and puffed. Then he proceeded to offer advice to the shaved head woman with him about what to expect from the Whites. Most of his conclusions were wrong, but I didn’t see any point in correcting him. All he had done thus far is criticize and complain, mocking the things he had seen and talking about his money. As he mispronounced the names in the guidebook, I was itching to correct him. Then he started questioning where things were in town, but he didn’t ask me. His life could have been made much more pleasant if he’d just asked me. But, he just sat and complained and continued to talk about things of which he doesn’t have the full details. I don’t mind people with uninformed positions and opinions as long as they are inquisitive. Instead this guy would rather think he is right than discover the truth. He still talks about his money, it makes me sick. Hopefully he will search the town for hours for the laundry, the pizzeria and the post office. I’d tell him if he would just ask, but he continues to moan and groan about prices and plans. He really rubs me the wrong way.
This evening I went back to the Brick and Brew for pizza. I didn’t try for another free slice of pizza. Afterwards I went to the 5 Olde Nugget bar. I watched the Tampa Bay-Red Sox game with a crowd of locals wearing Red Sox gear. I drank several beers and made small talk with some of the patrons. Out of the blue though, I was cut off from the bar. It was the strangest thing. I’m not sure exactly why it happened. Maybe the bartender didn’t like that I was drinking alone, maybe he just didn’t like me taking up two barstools as my pack sat next to me at the bar. Anyway I strapped on my pack and headed into the night. I walked the road out of town to the soccer field. When I got to the field, tents were set up everywhere. I rolled out my sleeping bag and slept under the clear night sky. The night required my heavy sleeping bag. My nose and ears got cold. I fell asleep to shooting stars falling over Hanover.