Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Labor in the Pulpits update

So, many of these blogs get their inspiration through the work that I am doing as a part of the Faith Community for Worker Justice organizing all sorts of religious communities around issues of worker justice.

To this date, there are 87 congregations in the Milwaukee area who have decided to participate in the program, were shooting for a little over 100. With that number of people we will probably end up on Labor Day Sunday, having 10 thousand open ears hear about how labor and the struggle for justice are won. We have speakers converging on many of these congregations, while at the same time having some congregations speak themselves on the issues of worker justice. Hopefully this program will bring tons of new and interested people of faith to the forefront of the organized labor movement for immigrant worker rights and the right to organize.

The importance of getting the religious community involved cannot be underestimated. As we saw during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's the church played a dominating role in the organization of the masses to speak out against de-jury racism. Many people will say even on the left that this represents a coalition of church and state, and although at some level the church must keep itself out of politics when it comes to mandating law, the religious individuals of this country have just as much right as anyone secular to discuss how they feel about the political world. Many religious folks feel that it is their calling to speak out for justice through the backing of their own faith and the person who wishes to limit this is only a tyrant and hypocrite of pluralistic ideology.

The Faith Community needs to stand up on issues that effect the poor, the voice of these good hard working people is so easily hidden in the veil of market capitalism and we must not forget that in the end, we are all one human body who's social contract states that we must look out for one another.

Anyway, the Labor in the Pulpits program serves as a manifestation of this theory and brings with it a great sense of optimism! Faith suggests a moralistic framework for living and acting in the world; politics through this serves as the action and thus the two cannot be separated for people of faith.

The program is going really well and should be a great asset to the working poor of Milwaukee when it comes to having a voice in the workforce.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Two Feet of Christian Service

Something has been lingering on my mind for quite a bit of time and I think that this is a good place to vocalize it. I know I haven't really discussed my faith in too much detail in this blog and I certainly don't really intend to. Faith in something greater than yourself can only be shown, and can rarely be found through words.

There is something that I heard of a couple of years ago that really struck my attention and that was "the two feet of Christian service." And although it was developed by Christians it certainly applies to everyone regardless of faith.

Idealistically, people who care about the world in which they live work in both of the sectors. One of the feet of Christian service is the alms giving part many people, including churches, businesses and individuals feel really comfortable with the first foot. This service means being in solidarity with the poor by giving them the things that they need immediately, (food, water and shelter) and this is really important. However, it is something that so many engage in. We feed the poor at food pantries and soup kitchens, we have clothing drives at our community centers or places of work, at Christmas time we even have programs where we donate toys to be given to underprivileged families. All of this feels good, were giving back to our community and treating the poor with dignity and respect. We go home after shopping at target and buying a few extra things to donate to our well heated homes, sleeping in our cozy beds, while a couple of people that we helped out sleep on hard floors, but with stomachs full of the food we gave.

However, tomorrow rolls around and when the calories are burned, the toys are broken and the jeans are tattered, the very people who we felt so good about helping out are in the same exact place as they were before we gave them the things they needed at that very time. At some point at some level we must ask ourselves why are these folks poor in the first place? Simple answers come to mind first...their lazy, they don't want to work, they just went to jail, there on drugs. But in the end all of these answers place the blame on the individual, as if their is something deficient about them.

We are called to use our brains, to think beyond these overly simplistic sort of answers. And this is the second foot of christian service, the why... why is it that they are poor, is it a result of not having jobs that they can make enough money to survive? Is it a result of not having parents that were able to raise them in good family situations because they were always working to not get the house foreclosed upon. If that is true, why were they paid so poorly? Why did the schools that they grew up in so poor? What effect did their racial status and class status have on them being able to succeed?

When we start asking these questions things seem to get a bit more complicated. They beg the question of why is it that there is such a disparity of wealth? Why is it that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. So much of the time we are afraid to ask these questions, to think that there is something beyond that surface... These questions create conflict because they challenge us to think, they question the very place that us, the affluent stand. But in the end, when we solve these oftentimes "dirty" issues, perhaps the family that we adopted for Christmas will have a good enough job to not depend on our alms next year. Maybe the programs that we advocated was the thing that gave them a leg up out of the cycle of poverty.

One cannot be done without the other, giving the poor food, shelter and clothing is really important as it serves people's immediate needs, but so is the questioning of structure, the questioning of the very beliefs that may have put us in the privileged position that we found ourselves in from the beginning.

Have you ever seen a runner win a race hopping on just one leg? Ever seen a bicycle racer cross the line in first with just one wheel on their bike. Ever seen a successful marriage with just one person? Just as none of these situations are highly improbable, so is the creation of a newer better world, without a combination of tactic.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A plantation right in our own backyard Capitally Returning to Injustice

Currently, I am working on a drive to organize some low wage workers, we could sure use your support, here is a synopsis of what is going on...

We as a community of compassionate individuals who care about the way that the poor and powerless are treated are called to take action on behalf of the workers at Capital Returns. Who would have believed that right under our noses; right here in Milwaukee we would find a government subsidized company being run like a plantation. Imagine coming to work every day for an average wage of $9.00 and hour and being exposed to mystery pharmaceutical substances in powder, liquid, or any other imaginable form. How about being searched every time you have to go to the bathroom, or being forced to perform your data entry job standing up and having your chairs removed from your department? These are just a few of the oppressive conditions that employees at Capital Returns at 6101 N. 64th St. are faced with every day.

Capital Returns is a pharmaceutical waste distributor based on Milwaukee’s north side. They received a $250,000 economic development loan from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to help them move to their present location in 2005. That same year they were purchased by a large supply chain management company named GENCO. They employ about 500 workers at their 64th St. Location.

Capital Returns is a pharmaceutical processing plant in Milwaukee that processes expired and unused pharmaceuticals into waste products. Through this process, workers primarily women of African American and Hmong descent are employed to handle potentially harmful drugs and log them into computer databases. The working environments that these laborers are subjected to are absolutely atrocious. With hard days at in the plant and hazardous working conditions, these employees are not only not making enough money to live with the most meager of comforts, but also all sorts of health and safety concerns plague these low wage workers everyday. The harsh treatment and the unsafe work conditions have caused many of these workers to pursue joining the United Steelworkers Union.

In this memoir, we hope to understand some of the indignities that are happening to the workers at Capital Returns. These are the stories of the voiceless; who work day in and day out under oppressive structures of exploitation that are dedicated to keeping their employees destitute.

Health Concerns

When it comes to health concerns at Capital Returns, low-wage workers are constantly being put in situations where they must choose whether to do their job and not get fired, or place themselves in situations where they risk serious bodily injury.

Often times, workers through their jobs handle all sorts of old drugs without adequate protection to their own bodies. Many of the drugs that these employees handle have the potential of being highly harmful to their health. For example, the potential for a woman who is pregnant being exposed to birth control pills as part of her job is highly possible. In fact, in the past couple months 2 women who work at the plant have had miscarriages and although there is no way to say that it may be a result of the drugs, the correlations are awfully suspicious.

There is a general lack of concern for the employee’s health at Capital Returns, ventilation in the processing plant is always terrible. High humidity and lack of fresh air often leaves employees feeling nauseous with searing headaches and abnormally high cases of asthma attacks. And although workers have reported feeling terrible as a result of the working conditions, nothing is done to improve their well being. “On a weekly basis, there always someone who goes down,” one worker explained. “A lot of the time we have to choose between whether we want to stay healthy or continue to go to work.” When workers must choose between their health and whether they will continue to have a job, many of these workers can do nothing but keep working as they rely on these jobs to raise their families and pay the bills. Losing their jobs is just not an option for many workers at Capital Returns and as a result, they must put themselves in situations that are highly harmful to their health and well being.

In addition to bad ventilation in the plant there have also been reports of fires in the building. When these fires occurred, there was no evacuation of workers from the plant, but instead workers were told to keep working through and the fire would be taken care of and would not spread into the part of the building that they were working in. Not being allowed to leave a building when it’s on fire?! What kind of company is Capital Returns? Do the workers staying absolutely productive on the job outweigh the consequences of their safety?

Treated Like Children

The workers at Capital Returns are treated like workers on a plantation. The company conducts extensive searches on workers when they go to the bathroom, leave the plant and go to lunch. Strict rules dictate ridiculous policy that makes absolutely no sense. For example, one worker was suspended for being insubordinate to her supervisor when he told her to give him her badge and go home for the day. When the worker told him that she needed her badge to leave the building, she was suspended. In a world where we are taught to treat each other with dignity and respect, this sort of child like wrangling of low-wage dignified adults is simply not acceptable.

Because of these workers often desperate situation in the workforce, many of them are scared to speak up in fear of losing the jobs that they hold on to so dearly. They feel that they have to put up being treated like children because of their desperate need for a job.

Oppressive Policy

Capital Returns could care less about the well being of their worker. Employees who log in the old pharmaceuticals are forced to stand all day on concrete floors to do their work. In the past, they gave their workers chairs, but because of reasons unbenounced to the employees, they have had all of their chairs taken away. When asked if they could have their chairs back, it was refused. As a result, these workers spend their whole day on their feet on the concrete floors of the shop as they enter old drugs into computers. Many of the workers are seniors who find standing up all day particularly difficult on their bodies. Beat up and tired from being on their feet all day, the company bosses sit in well padded seats and watch over their plantation.

Workers are suspended for the most ridiculous of reasons, especially if the company suspects you of being for the union. One day, after a long day of logging drugs, one worker clocked out, eager to get home after a tough day at work. Every day before each worker leaves the plant they are searched by security. On this particular day, as he stood their being searched the security guard found that the worker had a pill that had fallen into one of the cuffs of his pant leg during the day as he logged expired drugs. When they discovered this he tried to explain when asked what it was doing there why it was there? He told them that his job was to log old pills and oftentimes the drugs fall out of their broken packages and end up all over the place. Another worker told me that at her desk, there were always old pills laying around in all the cracks of her desk from her job. However, because of this incident, the worker who had been discovered with the pill was automatically accused of stealing the pill and was fired immediately, he had been an employee good employee at Capital Returns for a long time, devoted to the company that he worked for, his coworkers often described him as an excellent, diligent worker who had always done what he was supposed to. Now without employment, he risks falling back on bills and destroying his credit as a result.

Now take this logic and put into a job like landscaper or welder. Suppose that a landscaper left the job site with dirt on his pants. Could he be rightfully fired for stealing the dirt from the job site? Or a welder who comes home covered in metal shavings. This sort of treatment of low wage workers that have no voice is simply unacceptable.

At Capital Returns, if you are a pregnant woman there is no consideration for your need for a job. Once workers have a baby and must go on maternity leave, they are required to re-apply for their job as if they were a new employee. During the time in which a mother has a baby, there is no consideration for the mothers well-being. When a mom has a newborn at Capital Returns, they go into labor not knowing if they are going to have a job when they are healthy enough to go back to work, leaving both the lives of the mother and the child up in the air.

Many of these workers are young women that have been hired through Wisconsin’s W-2 Program which generally starts them out as temporary employees. Capital Returns preys on these sorts of programs because it knows that the people who are hired through this program are poor and easily exploitable. Through this process, Capital Returns, by hiring the most exploitable laborers knows that it is much more easily able to patronize and marginalize these workers.


As a result of the employees at Capital Returns vocalizing their concerns at the workplace and getting no response from the company workers thought that the best idea would be to contact the union and see if they could get something organized.

The result of these actions were harsh. The company began having meetings and trying to intimidate and scare workers about the terrors of the union. The company went so far out of the way as to hire union busters whose full time job was to make sure that the workers didn’t form a union. Apparently, Capital Returns has the money to hire these expensive contractors to come in and break up unions, but cannot afford to give their workers even the most minimal of power in their workforce. These union busters held meetings that sought to spread lies and create a culture of fear in the workplace. Some workers were even threatened to run over in the parking lot if they decided to form a union. The company even started posting people to watch over the lunch room to see who was talking to whom in order to figure out which workers supported the union and which ones didn’t. After the company started doing this, they began to single out workers who they believed to support the union and conduct ‘random’ searches on them as they entered the work place. It also seemed that once these people were singled out, that they were watched much more closely at the workplace to find any sort of slip ups that could warrant discipline or suspension. Through this process, workers in the plant are scared, rumors about the union spread like wildfire as workers are pitted against one another at the job. Through these actions, the company was able to set up a culture of fear in the plant that implied that if you supported a union, there would be a much greater possibility of getting fired.

Because of this crippling fear that the employees face, many of them are afraid now to say how they really feel about how things are going at work. Only with your help, can we stand in solidarity with these workers. With this support behind them, we have the ability to change the way that Capital Returns treats its employees.

A Call for Action

We as a body of people called by our own sense of morality have an obligation to stand up for the voices of those who are drowned out. If we are to be a society based on the democratic values for all, then we need to first start at the root cause of fighting injustice. This is not simply an abstract call for help on creating an abstract better world but real people in the Milwaukee community that wish for nothing more than a voice in the places of their employment.

We as a people must be willing to listen to this silent voice, to stand up and make a calling on behalf of the low-wage worker. History books tell us that plantation work ended with the ended with the civil war almost 150 years ago. However, it can be assured that it is still here.

The forces that keep hard working poor in a state of poverty are relentless in Capital Returns. Workers must continue laboring at places where they have no voice, no opportunity to escape except complete destitution. In our society a place that prides itself on being the richest in the world how is it that companies like Capital Returns are permitted to continue labor practices like the ones that they do? Have we not evolved beyond that state?

The Capital Returns workers need you help. The more people who help to get the word out about what is going on at Capital Returns; the more people who attend our rallies; the more people that feel compassionate about the people in our very city about these issues; the better chance we have of creating justice in the workforce at Capital Returns.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Refections continued

"People will be together only in a common wretchedness as long as each isolated being refuses to understand that a gesture of liberation, however weak and clumsy it may be, always bears an authentic communication, an adequate personal message." Raoul Vanetgem

Recently I have been thinking about a number of things that open up the question of isolation of people from each other. See this clip from a movie called Waking Life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDWEkzaBULQ Recently I also saw the movie, You, be and Everyone we know. All discuss the process by which we cannot fully connect with the other people around us. Yesterday, I suggested that it might be out of fear which is the mechanism by which this communication is thwarted. But what are its effects on the human potential? That is the question that seems to show up in the praxis of everyday life.

Without others surrounding us and being able to fully connect with us, how can we build any life that is centered on meaning. New Age religion and philosophy may suggest that we look within ourselves to find our own authenticity. Likewise, other philosophers suggests that we look completely out into the world to find our authenticity; however this leads the problem of letting a completely materialistic and false economic system consume the very person we wish to become. The market sees us as a consumer, a simplistic machine that only exists to produce and consume with the intentions of only reproducing again. If we want the real answer for how we find authenticity and break free of the isolation that a post-modern benevolent world creates, I truly think that the only way in which we can find this is simultaneously looking inside and searching ourselves, while also completely immersing ourselves in the people to which the world has to offer.

Without the presence of both of these existences, this understanding crumbles under its own weight. So if we truly want to be human, you know as far as our own striving toward the maximum of human potential we must recognize and endorse the creative acts of all individuals no matter how insignificant they may seem. Things that show the truest forms of complete human identity. We must embrace these acts to truly understand. So much of the time we are asleep, and these acts don't make sense in the context of our narrowly understood roles and situations to which we form our identity. However, if we open our minds to these things. Maybe something beautiful may come out and true community (the one we have been looking for the whole time will arise).

Don't mean to sound like a pessimist, because I am certainly by no means one, but instead. I am optimistic at the reaches that the human potential has in store. When we reach this spot maybe we can be truly happy with ourselves.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Fear, Love and Freedom

I apologize for not keeping up with this blog so well in the past couple of weeks. But I have some new observations to make that have been on my mind for a while.

One is the dichotomy between fear and love. About a week ago Elizabeth and I were riding our bikes down by the Lake. It was a beautifully poetic thing, what is great about when I go riding with people now its not about the ride and the training advantage that will be received by pedaling for the suggested time period, but instead its about discovery. Anyway, so in this spirit of discovery, we rode down to the lake, it was pristine day, easily distracted by the sights of people/places and things we were happy. We danced on the public art, threw our bikes down and threw ourselves into creativity. As we rode, we found a lighthouse down by the Summerfest Fairgrounds and got the great idea to see if we could climb up inside of it. However, we found it to be locked up and inaccessible. So we sat enjoying the water and watching the boats come into the harbor. Elizabeth thought it well to wave and smile at all the boats as they came in, after all, she had been doing this the whole ride, waving and smiling at all the people we passed along the trail, breaking the isolation that we each feel from each other like a hammer on ice. This friendly endeavor of waving and smiling lead to an amazing adventure. As she leaned over the dock, red hair blowing in the wind; free. A boater yelled out "hey, would you like a ride?" Elizabeth stood there apprehensive. But I had learned a few things since the tour, with respect to opening yourself up to strangers to let them be a part of your life. I urged Elizabeth to partake what some might call risky behaviour with a lone man on a boat. We climbed down from the dock loading our bikes into the sailboat for a ride. Wearing nothing but Lycra and bicycle jerseys we sat, meeting and greeting a stranger on a sailboat. Oh boy, what a glorious endeavor!

Peter was his name, a middle aged tanned scruffy sailor who was living the life that the suits downtown only wished they could attain through their corporate salaries. Peter was free, Peter was happy! Once a salesman who worked the white collar job soon found that the life he was living was not satisfying, after being broken up and shredded by the seemingly meaninglessness of the rat race, he left it all and found his way onto a sailboat, traveling around bodies of water in the way that every Jimmy Buffet fan wishes they could. Peter was free, he had been face to face with the life that we all get sucked into. First, you go to college, get into a lot of debt, get a car, get into more debt, get a good job, to pay that debt back, decide that you need a house, take out a mortgage and before you realized the iron chain that solidified you to modern society is sealed, your freedom is exchanged for the very things that you believe will make you free. Crazy how that happens eh? The way we are constructed into this mental and physical slavery.

Peter has a lot going for him; so many people when asked what they believe to be the meaning of life respond by saying that they want to be happy, and although to some extent, this may be a selfish pursuit, like Rousseau would say, you have to foster your garden and be happy before you can help others be happy.

So how do you find happiness? I don't think that it can be found through the traditional modes of everyday life that the "American Dream" suggests in fact just the opposite, through rejection of the very thing that we think will make us free is the path toward it.

Anyway, it was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. As Elizabeth sat on the front of the boat letting the breeze flow through her hair like the fingers of God, Peter and I sat there, understanding each other. We sat sailing into the sunset with a shared mutual understanding about how this world works. One so simplistically revolutionary, that modernity must overcome great leaps and bounds to comprehend.

Freedom comes through breaking down the walls of fear that only work to serve the bourgeoisie. Fear divides us from ever trusting other people, they say that crime has risen, that we must lock our doors, carry a gun, not hitchhike, be scared of terrorists, planes, bombs and people. At each level, it isolates us further and further from making community and realizing collectively that were all stuck in this stupid rat race. Only when we break down these walls of fear that separate us from each other can we truly be happy. These walls only exist to isolate us from others so we don't realize that in the end, we are truly all one big human family, all individuals looking for effectively the same thing. We all want love, truth, happiness and community with others. But this cannot happen in a society so filled with fear.

As Elizabeth and I jumped onto a boat with a complete stranger, we took that first step at breaking down that fear complex that we have all been so craftily duped into following, and as we bid farewell to our new friend Peter, we realized how full life could be when we rejected fear and loved for once, embraced each other with open arms and yes, maybe even left ourselves vulnerable to being hurt.

"Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist, keep LOVING, keep fighting!"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer Time and the Livin's Easy

I must say that the state of Wisconsin is hands down the best state that I have lived in so far and living in a lot of states, I can say that with some degree of confidence. The demeanor of people in the Midwest combined with a relatively more socially conscience public allows for Milwaukee WI to dominate all!

Milwaukee is the host of a tremendous amount of street festivals that take place throughout the summer. Literally every weekend there is a street blocked off that where people wander about, listening to eclectic mixes of music, all for the excuse of consuming alcohol. And best of all, its free! (for the most part) Milwaukee just finished a festival called Summerfest. Summerfest is the largest music festival in the world and judging by the venue space and that had more stages than you could comprehend that played music straight through for a week long. Thousands upon thousands of people crowded to see the bands that they simply could not get enough of.

It was amazing the demographics of people that show up to the festivals. Especially at Summerfest, the rivers, interstates and other natural and man made dividers that serve to eliminate people from interaction based on their race and classes are suddenly eliminated at these venues. Summerfest, because of its relatively high cost is somewhat limiting to the poorest because of its 15 dollar entrance price, but despite that, it is amazing the diversity. All of God's people converging on one highly concentrated place. For once, we are forced to look at the beautiful diversity and talent that the children of God possess. Truly amazing, for once, we are able to break down those walls and barriers that separate us.

These walls, mental voids that we have of anyone except the people that are just like us isolate us from reaching our furthest human potential. Only through the exposure to the entire population can we consider ourselves knowing. Democracy suggests that all people have a say in the political and structural situations in which they are apart of. Without this how can we truly know the human community, why are these walls here in the first place? So many of us go through life interacting only with the people that we feel absolutely comfortable with, I am no exception, but I think that in order to truly understand ourselves, others and the world around us we must be wiling to open our hearts and eyes to a vision that is wider than the diameters of our television set, our neighborhood, our friends and family. That is the goal in the end, at least for me maybe you'll find that it fits into your own as well.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Journey (next day, do days matter anymore?)

Today was a great day, after all the crap that I had been through over the past couple of days, the first thing I needed was a good day; a day without deep philosopical insights and drama. Its important to have days like this somtimes, where you don't dwell on the stuff like the meaning of life and stuff. You have to be balanced, where thinking too deeply all the time will only lead you to a complete loss of your other creative side. Completely strapped for cash, 40 dollars and a path of 500 miles would make the trip meger at best. You wouldn't beleive how much food you will eat when your body is used to burning tons of calories all day long through the cycles of the chainwheel and constant movement of rubber on tarmac. Burning on the high to "get the hell home" I traveled 135 miles.

The plan would be to try and take a little bit different way home than I had taken to Duluth. This objective certainly didn't prove to be very hard considering that Wisconsin, like the rest of the United States dominated by the car culture has created a vast infrastructure of pavement that creates pathways to even the most desolate of locations. (even the middle of the dense Minnesota woods) With no money I decided to try and budget 10 dollars a day to get on by. This budget ment that the stops in the small town diners would no longer be feasable, instead the diet was filled with a vegitarians delight of peanut butter and jelly bagels that I was quickly becoming very accoustomed to. Besides this what it was decided that the best way to get a load of calories to fuel my well traveled legs would be really high calorie cheap as piss junk food. The foods that best served this need was King Size Snickers bars, which had probably twice what any given persons saturated fat content should probably be for one day and of course Little Debbie snacks that costed only about 25-50 cents a peice. Coke and other caffenated drinks would also provide the fuel to give that extra added boost that always seemed needed when you rode down a vacant road aimlessly staring at nothing except the GPS display that slowing counted down the mileage to the nearest town with a gas station.

I must admit that coke and other fine caffenated products really do a good job of getting your ass moving fast! It will be like your completely dragging ass, almost incoherant of the beautiful unrestrained earth that surrounds you and then you see a beautiful angelic oasis in the distance, a sign beckoning to be seen by weary travelers such as yourself "BP" it screams loudly in a haze of green and yellow lights. What more could a person like yourself ask for. Your salt covered drugged out face reacts to the sweet nectar of cold brown overprocessed globalized liquid like a flower in the desert, soaking up every last nutrient that it has (not too many in the case of coke).
A king size snickers and a coke later your calculating out how long it would take you to do a 150 mile day. Generally however, like most drugs, this only lasts for about an hour and a half until your back to calculating a regular day.

Stopped around Ladysmith, WI today (actually I was probably about 10-12 miles away) Pulled off to the side of the road when no cars were looking and dived deep enough into the woods as to not be spotted by whoevers "land" I was trespassing on that night. Its not the best of campsites, having to clear out a spot in the brush is a pain, but it will do the job. Oh well, better get some sleep, another long day ahead tomorrow.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Journey Day 6 (5/30/2007)

So... I got up in the morning pigging out to the max on the buffet breakfast that the hotel that I stayed in the last offered. Stayed up late last night drinking a whole pot of coffee myself. My mind in complete overdrive. I told my story to the waitress at the Perkins and she was absolutely astounded. She hooked me up with a free meal maybe out of pity, maybe somthing else, I don't really know. The waitress probably about a year or so older than me talked outside just as I was leaving about where we stood in our lives, what the hell we were doing here and what do we do from there. As we sat outside at midnight, she leaned against the wall, as to take a long and needed break from the burden that life had bestowed upon her. The cigarette that lay their pinched in her calioused hands and myself were the only friends that either of us seemed to have at that particular fleeting moment in time. She told me of how she had hitchiked all the way from Colorado to Duluth about a year ago to start a new life. She worked two jobs, one down the street and worked the night shift at Perkins. As she told me about how she had ended up in Duluth there was obviously a deep amount of pain that surrounded the topic. She let out a soft wimper and tear as she told me what she was doing here. All of her dreams a youthful ambitions of doing somthing with her life had culminated in the occupation of a Perkins waitress. She felt so much more able, so much more potential fro all her talents. I told her what Scott had told me earlier that night about how people only remember the trainwreaks. She laughed, but told me that she remembered the good times to and that they were always her favorite stories. Maybe its a little bit of both I suppose, life being a process of ups and downs to which both can be equally memoriable. I do think though that the painful and hard ones make the good ones more appreciable. We said our goodbyes, and I knew deep down inside that she wanted me to go home with her that night and clense her sorrows, but I didn't quite feel obligated, with a girlfriend at home at the time it was just not an option.

After a long night of writing and reflection, I awoke. Got up in the morning pigging out to the max on the buffet breakfast that the Super 8 that I stayed in that night offered. I mean if they were gonna charge me 65 dollars to stay there for one damn night I was going to eat the piss out of their "free" breakfast. The waitress at Perkins suggested that I take the city bus up to the airport, from there I could rent a car and drive out to where my bike was and be on the road again by midday. I negociated the city bus route for a couple of hours until I found myself up at the airport in Duluth. I jumped on the bus and the first time completely took it the wrong way to the end of town opps. And after a long string of stops at the mall and downtown Duluth I ended up at the airport a few hours later. When I got to the airport, nobody would let me rent a car without a 'credit' card. Apparently "debit" cars just won't work and despite my somber story that I had for all the rental car folks company policy was company policy and my dreams of being able to get a rental car were quickly drying up. Thinking that I could possiably apply for and instantly recieve a credit card, I asked one the rental car attendants where the closest bank was. She gave me directions and I walked for a couple of miles with my messenger bag and sleeping bag until I found the bank. Apparently, it takes 7 to 10 days to receive a credit card and there is no such thing as an instant one. Shucks, well what am I going to do now? So I decide that the next best thing is to take a cab. 70 dollars later the cab takes me to the end of the dirt road where I can hike out to find my bike. I start hiking and plan on using my GPS along with peices of paper from my journal to mark out where I've been out in the woods and where the entrance where the hunting cabin lies and trail ends. Luckily when I dumped my bike I was able to get the slightest of a signal to be able to mark where my bike was so that I would be able to come back and get it. So I start hiking and plan on using my GPS along with the peices of paper from my journal to map everything out. Jumping into the woods with extreme caution, I can feel the spine tingling fear that I had the day before as I entered this situation. The last thing I wanted was to end up in the same position that I was the day before. And yet it happened that way.... After scowering the woods for about 3 hours in search of my bike, I could not get an accurate reading from the GPS and although I could find my way back to the end of the trailhead, I could not find my bike in the dense woods. I was defeated. Here I was with no bicycle and 15 miles away from the nearest house the taxi had left along time ago and without a a car and a bike, all I had was my own two feet. The only option that I saw that I had left was to say screw this and go home. The problem is that before I get home I have to hike 15 miles to the end of this damn logging road to get help. With soaking wet feet from hiking through marshes I walked and by the time I got done with my walk I was completely haggard and defeated.

I found a lady outside mowing her lawn. Now this the first person that I've seen in 6 hours (like yesterday) and I am more than excited. Barely being able to walk anymore because of all the blisters that have accumulated on my feet I greet her. She looks as if she is scared of me, and given the way that I probably looked I wouldn't blame her. She calls out her husband who hears my story and rather than letting me use his phone to call someone in town, he feels highly confident that finding the lost bike will be no problem whatsoever, especially since its marked by GPS. We all jump in his pickup with his 4 wheeler loaded in the back and drive out to the hunting lodge. Now apparently he has some sort of super GPS that can see through trees and when he sticks the coordinates into his machine, the bike is found within 15 minutes. Its absolutely amazing! Here is me thinking that the Snake my favorite bicycle in the world is completely gone for good! And he finds it! We load it onto the back of his 4 wheeler and drove back to the end of the road. Andy, the guy that help me out more than I could have ever known put my butt back on my feet. He was late for his softball game so he quickly had to leave shortly there after. But I was back on my feet, aboard the Snake. Barely being able to walk because of the blisters on my feet the size of Texas, I rolled my body onto the saddle of the Snake and started pedaling back toward Duluth. By the time I arrived in Duluth it was rainy, cold and misreable. Soon I had to concede to another hotel room. 80 more dollars down the drain. Throughout this experience I had spent 210 dollars and in a matter of 2 days had spent a majority of my budget for the entire trip. It was time for the Snake and I to head back home.

The Journey Day 5 (5/29/2007)

Today was certainly a wild day, a day that will never be forgotten throughout the process of my lifetime. I sit in a Perkins at 10:30 at night bike less in Duluth, MN. My bike sits 35 miles north in the middle of the woods somewhere out as far away as existance stands. But despite my misrebile situation, in the end I stand with a renewed beleif in the idea of people being natrually good.

It all started with a wrong turn onto a logging road that lead into the middle of nowhere (like really the middle of nowhere!) Thinking that it would take me to another road I rode all the way to the end (about 15 miles) not being from Minnesota, I had know idea what a logging road was and what its purpose was. The thing is that logging roads don't go anywhere! Except out into the middle of nowhere where they clearcut a large section of woods and leave! Eventually the road dead ended. Not wanting to turn around and go all the way back to the end of the road, my headstrong brain told me that I should keep going forward. I looked at my map and spotted a road that looked like it was only half a mile from my current location and if I could just get there, all would be fine. Only a half a mile, I would have to bushwack my way through the woods, but it really wasn't that far, I could make it....

So I started bushwacking my way through the woods to the road that I thought was only a half mile North. As I started walking through the woods, they became so dense that the my GPS did not work and having no direction of where I was headed, I was in deep crap. I wandered around the woods in circles not knowing where I was headed. Soon the bike became to laborious to carry though the woods and in a complete state of panic, your mind tells you really stupid crap to do. In a panic similar to the one probably felt by the kids in the Blair Witch Project, I ditched my bike and started walking, packing everything in my messenger bag that I felt I would need if I had to survive in the woods by myself for a couple of days. It was the real life little scenarieo that they always give us in those team team building exercises where if your plane crashed in the middle of the woods what would you bring with you? So I packed food waterbottles, a sleeping bag and thermals to sleep in. After walking through the woods for about
3 hours in circles, I eventually found a trail that lead me out to a road. It was a logging road, but it was more than I had going for me in miles. Luckily after walking down the logging road for an hour, a truck with a retired guy from Minnesota who spent his summers there and winters in Flordia, picked me up in my frantic wave. He took me to the nearest town which was about 15 miles from where I was at the time. I rejoiced, I hadn't seen another human being for 6 hours and he was my saviour.

When we arrived to town, I sat in Cotton, MN. Now I assume that you've probably never heard of Cotton. All that Cotton has is a gas station, a bar and diner. What was I to do now? I had no idea, with no bike and nothing but my messenger bag and sleeping bag I was kinda screwed. After soliticiting all the truck drivers in the diner for a ride back to Duluth, I had no luck. I went outside to where the highway passed through and sat, trying to hitchhike my way back. I figured that if I could get to Duluth, I could at least gain my senses and figure out what to do next. However, hitch-hiking was not working. There was one other option here in Cotton, and that was the bar.

I walked into the bar sat down, and had a beer praying that someone here could take me back to Duluth. At the bar I met Joe, Bob and Scott. Joe had a way of laughing that was like no other, he always seemed to laugh louder, longer and harder than the rest of the bar combined. Tall slender with the wrinkling tan that only spending to much time outside working will give you, I was greeted with hospitality. Bob was Vietnam veteran who is currently unemployed, but has spent most of his life working on the railroad building grades up the hills that allow the trains to go up and down without sliding. Bob was probably about 70 years old had probably weighed only 95 lbs but could drink the weight of someone twice his size and still hold himself up to convince a cop that he was sober if he ever got pulled over for a DUI. These folks didn't care who I was or where I came from they had been through it all, at that moment, I was in their territory and one of them I had a misreable story that gave me initiation. The bar was full of white, blue collar Minnesotianians. When the bar opened and they all came in, nobody knew each other, but after guzzing beers together for a couple of hours, they were the best of friends all with dreams of women who were willing to share some loving. Flirtation with the women across the bar was endless. The stories of hardship and misery came natural serving as complex pickup lines that any college frat boy could not even dream to imagine. Each one had a story, a bad relationship, a war that each had been through and all of these stories unfolded between the shots of vodka and pints of cheap beer. Suddenly the completely screwed position that I was in dosen't seem so bad. After telling my story, I was nervous, scared and not knowing what the hell I was gonna do however, my life has been a breeze compared to these hardships. Scott revived me by telling me that it was the train wreaks that people always wanted to hear. "Nobody cares if you made it all the way up to Canada and back without any problems, what do you have to write about then? What story is there to tell?" exclaimed Scott. My social location in relation to theirs is distant, these aren't the kind of people that were supposed to be talking to. These folks have no networks, no ladders to climb, no rich friends that are going to be able to help you out on the road to what our society calls success.

Scott, whose name I learned from the weathered stiched on name that clung to his collared shirt turned out to be my saviour that day, from the onset I calculated Scoot to be a drunk deadbeat failure who constantly drank to must and inquired about the closest titi bars and constantly thought about which girl in the bar that night would be most likely to give him a blowjob. I soon learned that all my original perceptions about Scott were completely flawed at best. I had thought and wrote off this guy the second that I walked in the bar and he turned out to be the man I could count on. He was the only one in the bar that was headed to Duluth that night. "Things just never happen the way that they are supposed to, and if they do life is boring." Was Scotts concensus, Scott had worked hard all of his life as an HVAC technican and had seen it all. From his long string of love lost, money trouble and alchohol problems Scott had learned this lesson early. The clashes, the miscalculations and crap that goes down in this world is where the human spirit must thrive, only when we are at our lowest can we make sense of what the good is. We need that scale to appreciate the good. As Scott bought Bob and I another drink, we discussed this, the clamor, the battle scars, failed marriages, kids that they wished still loved them. These folks in many ways were aleinated from me and my experience, but somehow I felt in community.

We sat in the bar for hours just talking aimlessly, it was beautiful. Could I really have not learned anything through these college years spent sucking up to every last social theory as if it was God. No! social theory was right here in the trenches and everyone in that bar knew more of it than I ever learned. I may have had a peice of paper that certified that I knew somthing but these people had experience in life, worth more than any stupid diploma could ever certify. They had found somthing that I could only hope to acheive. In many respects are current connected and fast moving globalized world would have thrown them away in the trash, they were racist, sexist and hard, but had more knowledge than I could touch. They had never lived in that American dream and knew that striving for it was as useless as walking in circles of woods.

As Scott and I drove down the road to Duluth, we talked about the state of nirvana and how to acheive it, women and men, theological basis in Christianity and Buddhism and everything in between. His words were so profound much of the time that I could hardly respond, his basis for everything he discussed was based on pure life experience, all I had done was read this stuff in a book. I didn't talk much, just listened and soaked up the wisdom of a man who had seen it all, somthing that I couldn't touch. We talked about this thing called a thin space. A thin space is a thing constructed by Christians that serves as a nirvana like state, but can be associated with Christianity as to not offend Jesus and all the higher folks in the Christian faith. A thin space is a place where everything around you is completely connected with the world around you. The state of christian nirvana. Scott told me that he experienced his first thin space 6 years ago out fishing with a few of his friends. He asked if I had and unfortunately I could not respond, I guess somtimes when riding you feel completely connected, but not to the extent that Scott had exclaimed. I wanted to feel that 'thin space' I wanted an escape like a thin space to find somthing truly meaningful that had so ellusively elluded me for the past 22 years.

Scott dropped me off at a Perkins in Duluth after the drive and sent me off with his address to write him, 20 dollars for good luck and a handshake. We would probably never see each other again, but I had learned so much in that car drive, I wanted that experience and I had learned so much. From Scott, I learned more in half a day than I would have on this whole trip if I had reached my planned destination to Vogeaurs. Just as Robert Frost said to follow the road less traveled, the opportunities of doing so puts you in places that you would have never known. Profound!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Journey (the next day)

Today was a day to remember our veterans. I wished to have found a town where the Veterans Day Parade would be passing, but unfortunately I am so far into the middle of nowhere that such a town does not exist within 100's of miles. Instead of Veterans, I was greeted by a salute from all the big plastic bears that northern Wisconsin has. It seems that just about every place of tourist business has a big plastic bear right in front to greet you. What kind of greeting this may entail may not be what one may expect; I'm pretty sure that if they were alive they would be very happy to eat ya!

I traveled from the southernmost section of Chequamguion National Forest all the way up to Brule, WI, a journey that took 135 miles of earth to pass beneath. The ride today was absolutely goregous. The wind was out of the south which allowed me lots of miles to ride, the high at 71 and with a clear blue sky above, it made for the most perfect of riding conditions. The scenary differed greatly from what I had passed through in the past, instead of farm fields that went on for what seemed like forever, I spent the whole day riding through National and State Forests.

I had a had a couple of reflections to make that I sort of began to conceptalize of today. One was that I beleive that riding a bike over long distances is hands down the best way in the world to get around, if you can make it as far as I have on a bicycle, the wheels are only limited to the degree in which the imigination of the rider can decide. However, I kept thinking back to a project that I finished for my final in social psycology where one of my main conclusions in advertising of the bicycle was the great paradox that the bicycle lies at the center of post-modernity. In many of our lives we are looking for somthing that allows us to escape the modern economic driven society that we live in. We look for wide open spaces to escape to, ones in which modernity has not quite touched yet. The great paradox though lies in the fact that you need a modern machine, (in this case a cool bike with all sorts of gadgets)created by the industries and man made mechanisms in order to acheive this state. As we try to escape into a world that is void of society and really see the world as God made it, we bring all of our stuff created in the very society that we are trying to escape from with us. So where is truth to be found in all of that ambiguity? I don't really know what are we really trying to prove if were not really escaping from that which we go to such great lengths to do? Do we have to be complete and naked nativists catching and hunting our way through the wild to acheive this mission in the end? I don't think so. I think to a certain extent we have to live and thrive to a certain extent in this hypocricy, afterall we are human, imperfect in any number of ways. But I guess thats why we go on journeys to find something out about ourselves or the people that surround us that we didn't quite understand before. Not quite sure though....

The bicycle though does offer something special. The bicycle works on a mode of simplistic pulleys, and despite what modern technology does to it, it will always be a chain, sprockets, two triangles and wheels, which receive their ability to move solely on the individual initiative that guides this vehicle. Through its simplicity, it is highly revolutionary. It begs to question our car centered oil consuming society if used for that method. As I ride down the road and talk to people along the way I find that there is a different level of connectivity that happens between the bicycle and the earth that simply does not exist with the automobile. You can hear the automobile and its unnatural mechanized sound from miles away if your in the middle of nowhere. This disturbing sound finds itself in contention with the natural world, disturbing the tranquil sounds that the natural world has to offer. The bicycle has a quietness, that is not abrasive in the way that the automobile is. The bicycle moves in harmony with the world surrounding it.

Another observation that gave me great optimism today was the fact of seeing the limits of globalization and realizing that it hasn't quite yet conquered every facet of the human world. In the modern capitalistic state, capital is driven by one sole thing which is profit. Through this process, the cogs of globalization work as well. However, in these areas the profit motive is simply not there because nobody except a few locals live here! Today, because my ride took a route that didn't involve spending much time in the city. What I found was a world that has not been globalized. The towns that I passed were authentic. Each town was different from the one next to it, each had its own flavor and originality that could not be taken. Many of us live in this state of nostalgia about the good ole' days where each town is different. Clearly these are the same individuals who have been consumed by the very things that they complain about. They support the modes of globalization while at the same time wishing to get back to "the good ole' days. We remain in the places where creativity is a lie and thrive, consumed by this disingenuous atmosphere. I am just as guilty of this very thing and it took being this far out in the middle of nowhere for me to realize it. Once you break off the highways, and the routes more traveled, globalization falters and a more straightforward moment arrives.

Labor in the Pulpits

You may have heard me talking about the Labor in the Pulpits program in many of my blogs, but I don't think that I ever quite had a chance to explain the program.

Labor in the Pulpits is a National Program that brings speakers to Congregations across all different faith backgrounds to discuss issues of economic justice (i.e not treating workers like crap and giving them jobs that allows for them to take care of their families) The Labor in the Pulpits program tries to discuss how important these issues are to our own different faith perspectives. God, at least to my knowledge said that the greatest of all commandents was to love your neighbor as yourself. Much of the time our religous brothers and sisters are quick to forget that. The goal of Labor in the Pulpits is to remind them that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed.

There is tons of scripture from every faith tradition that discusses the importance of treating workers fairly, Labor in the Pulpits draws off of that. So every Labor Day Sunday, which somehow seems awfully fitting, speakers come to churches across the country to talk about the importance of worker justice in their congregations. Congregations from every faith perspective participate, from Buddhist Temples, to Mosques to Synagogues to Churches, we all stand in solidarity with the exploited on this day.

This is what I do, this is who I coordinate. It may be easy to say that these issues don't belong in the church, but if churches wish to strive for peace, they must be willing to work for justice.

So that is the program, if your intrested in getting your congregation involved, your welcome to give me a call 414 771 7541.

Peace Always,


Millions of People

One of the most important aspects of doing organizing is the idea of communication. Communication is essential to every and all degrees of organizing. After all, organizing is about people power, not corporate power, so what activists continually draw off of is the power to bring many people together around a common good cause. In a globalized community, bringing people together is much more complex than it was 100 years ago, when people were brought together through direct interaction through calling a meeting.

Today, things are different yesterday, I probably made 100 phone calls to different people throughout the community wanting to know if they would be intrested in having a Labor in the Pulpits program at their congregation. Although I talked to so very many people, I came to the realization that organizing is about relationships, and the new avenues that we have for communication leave us with a sense of alienation from not only ourselves, but the people that we talk to. The internet, the phone and all other forms of communication can never be nearly as effective as the face to face, sit down one on one conversation. On the phone, through the internet, we mask our identities from one another, and although it is highly efficient, much of the time it leaves us wondering who or what the person that we were talking to is all about. These forms of communication are good if your not really looking to get to know somebody, but if we wish to find out who and what the people in our community are all about, they leave us wanting.

In human interaction so much of the time, we only focus on what we see as seemingly important so much of the time. We discuss at our places of work what tasks need to be accomplished with our co-workers, at home, we take this socailly constructed philosophy home to our friends and relationships and simply continue it. We drive ourselves to such a great degree of efficiency that we get lost in what is really important in the end. The feelings thoughts and emotions that each person feels, but never has the chance to completely vocalize because of the way that things have been structured. It sort of seems like a great loss to me, such a great chance to interact on a level that is not clich'e or efficient. In these interactions, we feel, we move and we change in mostly positive fashion.

The Journey Day 4

Well hello! I sit here in the Southern most section of Chequamegon National forest staring at the really neat looking campfire in front of me. What is it about fire that makes us people so mesmerized by its dance. It seems that you can stare at a fire for hours upon hours without getting bored. It always has a new dance, or maneuver to display to its viewer. Its kinda like bicycle touring I guess, you never get bored, the landscape has a way of keeping your attention and making you question what is just around the next turn.I'm sitting here 300 miles into the ride and my legs feel tired, but will still certainly be able to handle the roads ahead. Today, the winds came strongly out of the west which made this the first day of riding into a constant headwind. Yuck! Its amazing how on a loaded touring bike the speeds that you lose because of the winds! Instead of traveling down the road at 16-17 mph, I was struggling to hold 12 mph which I was thinking was the pace of a 5 minute miler! So yep I was going pretty slowwwww....

Got a little turned around today despite having my super fancy GPS system to aid me along the way. In the end it was only about 10 miles in the wrong direction, but never the less, it was irriating. I guess its really dumb to be irriated about it. Afterall, the journey was never about the destination at the end but the ride that got me there.

The Snake (my worthy bicycle) had alot of complaining to day today between breaking a spoke in the rear wheel and the hub starting to make a weird creeeeky noise. I think that she probably finds the riding around the city more to suit her style than these all day meanderings through the woods. Hopefully, I should be arriving to Duluth in a couple of days where I think that I can probably find a bicycle shop with some needed parts.

Ms. Reutsch made me pancakes this morning before I set off. People like Ms. Reutsch have a way of restoring a faith that people are natrually good. To think that a complete stranger would be let into someone's house, allowed to sleep and be fed says alot about our compassion to treat others with dignity and respect.

Unfortunatly, didn't get a chance to chat with many people along the way today. As I travel north, the population density seems to dwindle. For as beautiful as this land is up here, there is not very many people enjoying it. I assume that this is probably a good thing, because it seems like when some of the most prestine bits of nature are completely opened up for the world to see, society feels the need to bring all its extra crap with it to make the area domesticated. We bring our campers, then come the restraunts, comedy bars and minature golf stands. All of the sudden, capitalism has a new opening a place to make profit, and the very reasons that everyone came to that original place in the first place suddenly disappear.

I did stop in Marshfield for French Fries and a frosty for lunch at a Wendy's. Now that is a funny sight right there. An all lyricaed up superfit touring cyclist stepping into probably one of the most unhealthy places one could possiably eat. I mean, I was probably the only person less than 250 lbs in that joint! Oh well, the mosquetos are biting like crazy so I think that its about time to coucoun myself up in this sleeping bag and get some much needed rest.

The Journey Day 3

Another day in the saddle. I think that I must have thought all day about what to write in this journal entry. Would I talk about the rains that pleted down on me for most of the day, or the feelings of stepping into a warm shower at a kind soul's house after stinking it up for a few days.However, probably the most fundamental realization that I made today was how small we are. This is somthing that were told over and over again by our society but it never really seems to sink in. We still tend to be driven by our egos and ourselves at every level of the journey that each and every one of us is taking. I came to this realization after traveling 100 miles on the bike today into an amazing tailwind, and as I was getting closer to the destination for the night. I looked at the map and could put my fingers in between where I had started now and where I will stand when I get to Voyageur National Park; your body seems to want to tell you that you've already ridden to the edge of the world and back.At the beginning of the ride today, I went through vast wide open farming fields, where you could see for miles almost seeing the curvature of the earth as you gazed into the landscape. You could see the dust being picked up by the wheels of a tractor spiral through the air. It seemed that the earth just floated through the air, only to be guilded to where it was headed by the winds. When you got closer you saw the drivers of the tractors, unlike the dust, both you and the farmer driving the tractors, despite the environment were being guided by somthing besides the environment. We were being guided by somthing other earth's desire. Ambition toward the goal, ambition toward getting the field plowed were what we labored toward; the dust just played in the wind, no direction, all play.The farmers however seemed to me to be the most friendly people in the entire world, for being guided by some ambition, they seemed to be the most laid back easy going guys that you could have ever seen. Every farmer decided that waving and smiling was the correct way of passing someone else on the way to their goal. Funny when compared to the cycling community that I encounted leaving Milwaukee, you would think that a brother in arms like myself riding my bike would at least get a wave or a smile back... I bet that less than 1/2 of the cyclists that I passed would never consider responding to a wave, while every farmer would. As I got north of Berlin, the scenary completey changed. You also realize the intracies of mother earth, how she changes and how she molds her viewable landscape. No longer were the vast fields of Southern Wisconsin embodying my every turn, but instead I was the emergence of somthing called "Pine Trees" the farms turned into lakes and hills, the roads became twistier. Beautiful to see the change.Went to a website called warmshowers.com before I left and found a list of people that I could possiably stay with if need be. As I entered Wisconsin Rapids, I gazed down at the list of names that I had accumulated and discovered two names of people in Wisconsin Rapids. Bank shot! I called the first on and Ms. Ann Reutsch was more than happy to take me in. Ms. Ann is a Nursing Professor at a small technical school in Wisconsin Rapids and spends her summers bicycle touring. Her goal is to ride her bicycle in all 48 contential states. She lives with and takes care of both of her parents. After i got all showered up we sat in the living room and talked for about an hour about our past experiences with cycling/ life and "Creating the Army of Peace," Somthing that have idealistically thought about for a long time.Good day on the bike I suppose.
So the great trip began today (this was all about 4 weeks ago), 1300 miles to the Canadian border of Minnesota and back. The destination has been chosen, the wheels are now rolling and the good times a quest toward self discovery begins today. After not being able to find out what the world wants of a person yet I set out in the quest to stand up, put my neck out and break out of the disillusionment of a college education that is in so many ways alienated from the actual world in its totality. Hopefully, I will find what the American spirit is all about. I think it will be found on these roads.The trip so far has been small town of about a thousand to small town of about a thousand. Many of these towns don't really have much to offer to globalized citizen, no wireless Internet, no instant gratification, but in them rests a certain ease and relaxation that does not exist in the city. If theres one things that these towns do offer its a shit-ton of American flags. These folks sure do love America, but what it is that they love? A college education has in many ways taught me the fuck ups and processes of exploitation that the American life has wreaked on the rest of the world. I had to know....So after riding for about 85 miles and it getting to be about dinner time, I found myself entering the town of Terisa, WI. I was famished, with all the calories that had been put into my body before had disappeared on the rolling pavement of Wisconsin's southern country roads. Terisa didn't offer much, the whole town consisted of a Shell station that advertised pizza. It wasn't quite what I wanted, but it would have to do, after all, my body was eating itself. So I rolled up to the gas station ready to eat every piece of pizza that Shell offered. As I dismounted my bicycle, I found that a little old lady named Maggie was standing just outside collecting donations for the American Legions. Now there is something about a loaded touring bike that breaks down all social barriers that divide us from one another. People know that your on a journey to do something quite special. The curiosity that this brings allows you to talk to people that, had you not had the bike, you would never think twice about talking to. This was the first time I ran into this concept and would only prove to be more reinforced throughout the rest of the ride. Maggie asked me about my trip and as I explained the journey, her body language suggested that “this kid is crazy” but at the same time, deep down inside, she knew exactly why I was doing it. She reminisced about the days when “she was my age,” so free and ready to tackle the world. She told me about her grandsons who were out figuring out their own journeys. We talked for about 20 minutes, while she collected donations. This encounter also became the first time I realized in full the power that local knowledge had on keeping you well fed and safe. I asked her about good food and the area and she suggested that just down the road in the next town there was a place called Sam's which had notoriously good food. So I decided to can the gas station and bite the bullet until I got to Lomira where Sam's was located. When I got to Sam's it seems that I had not been the only one informed of this amazing little place. I bet that the whole town of Lomira was there! Apparently Friday night was all you can eat fish night at Sam's and judging by the packed crowd and big bellies of the customers, this place had to stock all the fish in Lake Michigan to keep these patrons happy. When I sat down in my cycling clothes although the restaurant was packed, I drew immediate attention. I sat down, and the waitress came over and took my drink order. All my dehydrated body wanted at that time was tons and tons of water. After about 4 glasses that she couldn't seem to fill fast enough, she conceded to bringing a pitcher my way. After dinner was over, just about everyone in the whole restaurant knew what my plans were and wished me luck along the way. A couple even came outside to check out my bike and ask me various questions about what different things do and how I was “actually” going to ride 1300 miles in 2 weeks. The people were more friendly than ever and I think everyone had a different route that they suggested that I take to get up North. I left Sam's well fed and on my first day I was beginning to figure out what this country actually stood for, apart from the politicians, the policies and the structure. Soon afterward I found a place to camp and bushwacked my way back into the woods so I couldn't be seen and stealth camped my way through the night in Lamatrine, WI. A good day....

The Journey

So I started off on this trip. With a destination in mind. However, the destination was not really the point in the end, but the times that coincided with the trip were what in the long run matter. Upon graduation, I moved to Milwaukee, partially because of an internship and partially because of a girl. Soon I learned that everything that I have been told about the useless liberal arts degree was coming true. After two interviews with jobs that I thought would be right up my alley, I found myself short changed and rejected. What I did have was a little money in my pocket, a couple of bicycles a somewhat positive outlook on life, and completely new world to embark on. However, when I arrived to Milwaukee, the internship still doesn't start until next Tuesday. In this time I had one thing to do and that was fundraise for the organization that I was about to work with. However, after a couple of weeks, that job was complete and I found myself living a life for the next couple weeks without direction and without a goal. Its funny how these things define who you are. When your in school, your goal and destination is the degree that is held up above you for 4 or 5 years or so. Then, your supposed to go out and find a job that provides you a meaning after that. What is the case is that you better be doing something, or you become one of the most irritable, depressed people that you could be. The Mr. Hyde of all your idiosyncratic attributes soon finds itself creeping out into everything that you do, your human interactions, the way that you feel about yourself, and the lens in which you view the world.After about a week and a half of dwelling in this nasty and brutish state of emotion, I felt the effects of it on everything that I did. After looking for temporary jobs in various places trying to use my college degree as an advantage, I wasn't getting anywhere. What I needed was a destination, a goal in which I could place my own identity. You find meaning in the things that you do, the goals in which you set for yourself, and in the end, despite how shallow it may seem, they provide the essentials to live a life with anomie. So how was I to solve this ridiculous predicament? And that is when I envisioned "The Journey." The Journey was planned in about a 1/2 a day in absolute desperation of the need for something meaningful. The Journey would be a bicycle touring trip up to Voyageaurs National Park in Northern Minnesota right up at the Canadian border and then back home. From Milwaukee to Voyageaurs, I figured that it would probably be about 1300 miles and take about 2 weeks. After carefully planning the trip (or maybe not) I packed 3 bicycle jerseys, 3 pair shorts, a sleeping bag, food, a camera, a tarp and an optimistic view that suddenly meaning was revived. The goal and the destination were in front of me, the bike packed, and with it a renewed reason for living. What follows is the journal entries that I wrote along the way. These reflections were what I thought on the seemingly endless roads of the Wisconsin countryside. I hope you enjoy.