Wednesday, November 09, 2011


I'm camped at a remote picnic area south of Phoenix.

I notice a guy apparantly living in one of the  shelters.

                                                    Meet Lee, a refugee from Missouri

I engage --get to know him a bit---walk with him a few times and invite him to my trailer.
He's amazingly open as I  go for the gold (a meaningful insight)

He calls himself social misfit ---though he managed to serve in the navy and afterwards work for years in electronics.  He saved a stash of money and then, inexplicably retreated to a dark room in a small town and for years----just let life drift by----An extreme example of the "quiet desperation" described by Thoreau.  Then one day he mustered the courage to go camping and eventually to leave his dark room altogether for the open road----making his way to Arizona.   His self-described problem is anger---a huge and fierce ---near uncontrollable anger arising from an abused childhood. (I evoked a few stories and revenge fantasies to get a feel for the depth of his anger)  Wow! I was frightened just listening.  He understands that his fierceness frightens others away---leaving him alone---and lonely.  He has pondered how to "fix" himself and find peace-----and he thinks he knows how:  He is morphing into a wandering loner  losing himself in the Arizona wilderness---drifting from summer high country to winter warm lowlands-----simplifying radically---getting rid of his car---walking everywhere----pulling a specially designed---lightweight cart with his supplies.   
I showed  him my most treasured book----Walden Pond ---reading the paragraph  beginning:  "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."----showing him he was in good company.  I also told him about the Slabs---a place where even mavericks can live comfortably. (he seemed interested)
Losing onesself in the wilderness is a doable dream.  Next day he brings a catalog to show me various cart options.

In fact, he's excited to get on with the cart project.  He points to a nearby mountain as his first foray with the cart. (the advantage of the cart is that 100 or even 150 pounds of supplies can be carried without stressing your back)

I also told him about this guy----Bill,--from New Zealand that I met last week.  He had walked the Arizona trail---from north to south---across the Grand Canyon and down to Mexico---reporting that the experience was transformative---and joyful.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I like Lee's idea---It just may be theraputic to wander alone in the wilderness.  His anger is child abuse come to bloom.  I believe we all embody the effects of our childhood---developing a strategy to cope with painful feelings----and paradoxically---it is that strategy that is most likely to bless the world.  Opra's response to her abuse is a positive example.
I look at my life strategy---wandering about---noticing things----asking questions---brazenly speculating and ask myself what motivates me to do this.  And I honestly don't know.  I seem to have always been ,in essence, this way.  Hopefully I refine my "game" as time goes by and it may prove useful to someone somewhere,  


Red Meador said...

It is good to see you got past the insanity of a while back. Excellent story and The very kind that brought me to look forward to your blog.
In the past I spent hours daily reading blogs. That has been reduced to 2 blogs, this being one of them.

Maria said...

Somehow I feel as though you helped this guy find joy, something he was unable to connect with before.

Perhaps instead of an aimless drifter, he'll now become a drifter with purpose.

What an awesome gift to give someone!

NEer said...

Excellent post.

Tesaje said...

What a tragic story. I hope this man can find the peace he seeks and let go of his anger. It is appalling how vicious some of our fellow humans are and the lasting damage they cause. I wonder if his seclusion is to prevent himself from becoming the same as his tormentors.

Michael said...

Maybe suggest, "Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking and 17 Years of Silence" By John Francis, Phd
Copyright 2008

Starting at 27, he put himself through college and earned a Phd, while not riding in any motorize vehicles or speaking. Speaking again he has a talk on

D0N said...

Did you ask him why he felt the need to "hog" all 4 picnic tables by placing a few items on each one? Anyone that would do that isn't someone I'd be interested in talking to.

You're gonna get yourself killed running around the country trying to analyze the freaks of society.

Tammy said...

Don, would it matter if Lee "hogged" all the picnic tables if the place was empty?

I'm sure Randy has developed a good sixth sense of when he is in danger, and listens to it.

Besides, it's nice to reach out to another human being. Randy is just being Human, and l'm sure Lee appreciated it.

Anonymous said...

Randy -
Thank you for this post. I think you are correct in saying we all embody the effects of our childhood. I hope Lee finds his peace while drifting. Best wishes to you.
- Paul

Anonymous said...

Tammy, By hogging all the tables Lee is obviously attempting to claim "ownership" of this rest area and discourage other people from spending any time there because he prefers to be alone. The place is empty only because he discourages others from using it. I'm sorry, but that rest area is a public resource and Lee should not be setting up a permanent hobo camp there. If I saw this, I'd report it to the cops and have him rousted out of there. What if every creepy dude occupies a rest area? Where will the other travelers rest? When someone's mental illness starts infringing on the rights of others, that's when I lose my sympathy.

Randy said...

Don---Tammie---At this moment, you're both right: Lee is indeed hogging and wrongly "claiming" the whole shelter and illegally living there-----BUT---the entire park is currently almost empty--so that no one is being deprived of picnic space. There are about 10 of these shelters in this remote park. Soon, however, the park will fill with such as me and Lee will indeed be depriving others. Hopefully, he will get his cart and begin his wilderness adventure soon. Dealing with indigents such as Lee is a real problem in most large cities---I proposed a solution in a blog last year about a bag lady I met. And yes, Tammie, I have developed a self protecting intuition about the characters I interview---let's hope it continues to serve me well. If ever I was in real danger it was interviewing the guy in the blog entitled: MEET A REAL KILLER.

katrina said...

nice post... it is sometimes a little frightening to read about the people you meet and write about! for years, it's been in the back of my mind that i'd like to live a nomadic life, but i envision myself being much less social than you. you have the curiosity it takes to engage random strangers in deep conversation, i'm not sure i'd be able to do that.

Sondra said...

I stopped to read last evening but didnt make my comment...I had to think about it.
1. I do think some people need mental health care but as is usual in this nation health care is NOT affordable to all who need it.
2. Mental problems can make people very dangerous and UnPredictable.
When working as a Paramedic in NYC I worked on many runs where we responded to mentally challenged people and I did not try to engage them as I preferred to also NOT push their buttons, and since I didnt know what their buttons MAY be, I figured NOTHING Is the best thing to say...
I am not in the business of saving people any longer so I can say I am happy to let them go their way and I go mine.
3. He is hogging the picnic area and he should move on...if he is as antisocial as he claims to be then why is he staying in a Social Spot? Its a total contridicition...he says he is antisocial and yet he has laid claim to a spot where people gather to be together in a social way?
In NYC homeless take up space on city park benches and "normal" people wont go near in a way he is Hoping for the normals to NOT come near him. He may as well hang out a sign that says "dont even think about it."
So in this way he is acting out what he said he wanted to do, he is lashing out as others by his action..he is saying "STAY away, GET AWAY, etc."
Just my thoughts....I wouldnt go near him personally and would be fearful of him simply because of his "claiming" what is not his to claim, he doesnt think the rules pertain to him... So in a way he is being defiant and he is saying," all of you Normal people MUST follow the rules, but He thinks HE does NOT have to follow the rules he has a superiority complex!!!
Randy...some of the most dangerous people are very normal looking and can be very seductive and personable, please use common sense.

Anonymous said...

Randy, great post and wonderful actions by a true human being. Real inspiration!
I do believe normal human interaction is the best way to show "social misfits" that among the "normal", there are humans of many different shades, and most have found a place in a "society" when it is defined to be just a little bit bigger than the area traditionally occupied by the conventional, the restricted and the scared.


Paxie said...

Losing my Dad suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 4 1/2, I have now realized the anger I have still not let go of when it comes to loss.

I loved this post and related to it immediately. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Your efforts at connecting to fellow humans is to be admired as I am sure those on the edge appreciate it without knowing how to thank you.
Kudos to you. Safe adventures to you.

Bev in NS Canada

Jim said...

Many years ago I was a rager. There were so many injustices I could hang my hat on -- things that happened when I was too young to do anything about it; other things that happened when I was older which were grossly unjust and obscenely unfair. With the help of EMDR (plenty to read about it online) I was able to move those hurtful memories from short-term storage to long-term storage where they belong. This form of therapy is also very effective for those suffering from PTSD -- claiming twice the effectiveness in half the time = four times better?
There were no aha moments; no profound behavior changes . . . just a slow realization over time that I no longer would use just about anything as a trigger to rage. I suppose the monster still lingers in some dark corner of my psyche but years have gone by now without a single relapse. If I'm caught off guard, I can still react in a frightening nano-second, but I catch myself and regain my balance (go to my safe place) almost immediately. I give credit for all this to a knowledgeable therapist and a surprisingly simple therapy. One indication the "file transfer" is complete is that I really have to focus on any given past event anymore to remember details about it. Before I remembered the every detail -- as if it happened yesterday. Now I can hardly be troubled to relive it.
I think one other revelation which helped me was a more complete understanding of forgiveness; coming to accept it did NOT mean I was letting anyone off the hook for what they did . . . that it was perfectly OKAY if I never trusted them again. It was more about refusing them any further purchase in *my* life -- rejecting their control over my life because of something which happened decades ago. It's actually quite liberating to kick all those dog lickers OUT of your control booth; weld the door shut and make absolutely sure that NOBODY ever gets back in there -- never again. All to say that living with uncontrollable anger and rage is a choice . . . and one can also choose to make it go away. When we play the victim, we glorify and empower our abusers every day for the rest of our lives. It's no way to honor your life.