Knack or knacked?

Me, 2013? Still not a great picker and I have more gray hair now. Also, I miss that shirt.

The best way to travel, after all, is to feel, to feel everything in every way, to feel everything excessively, because all things are, in truth, excessive and all reality is an excess, a violence, an extraordinarily vivid hallucination. -Fernando Pessoa

Planning a jaunt for me is a kind of distillation. This isn’t to say that I plan closely, especially when I’m going out alone. The variables are just different when I travel with Amanda, who travels for different reasons than I do and who loves me inspite of my peripatetic soul. I’ve never been able to talk the progeny into a trip with me, which is probably for the best since she, too, embraces travel in a way unique than my own. Traveling on my own, I want to leave space for the unexpected in a way that a lot of people (rightly) consider unsafe. A bit of the knack and more than a bit of serendipity tend to fill in the details of my trips out. The unplanned and unplannable played a role in my last trip out, my failed walk-about along the Mississippi in May of this year.

Originally I’d planned another westward trip, all the way out to the left coast to visit friends, see the Pacific again, and wander the great square states with big sky broken only by the Rockies. I was considering another run at my failed walk. But then it occurred to me that I hadn’t spent much time in my own backyard — the Ohio River Valley Basin.

There was a time that I covered the lower part of the valley in my car. This was the mid-1990’s. I was loose in the world more or less, trying to figure out how to live in the world with such an itchy foot. It wasn’t my intention to wander the lower valley. It’s just what I did. From Huntington WV to Ironton and Portsmouth, Seamen, OH, Cincinnati, Maysville, Lexington, KY. I worked just enough and often stayed with friends. I also stayed at my Mom’s when I had my weekend visitations with Stella, which offered the Kid some consistency and helped cover for the fact that I had no clue how to be a practical parent. A few times I tried to stop moving work. Once I moved back out to my hometown and paid rent to sleep on a cot in someone’s laundry room. One of my oldest friends got me that job and the crash pad, actually. I don’t know that I ever really apologized for imploding … as I usually do when I try to go straight and hold job like a productive member of society. Sorry, Bret. I really am. I’m also sorry for being a shitty friend and not keeping in touch.

But this time is different in that I don’t have a car, can’t afford a car, and if I’m being honest, I’m only romantically attached to the idea of having one. This means I’ll be traveling by public transport… which is spotty in a large chunk of the area I’m going to be wandering… on the kindness of friends and strangers (not that I’ve had much luck historically, hitchhiking) and on foot (as little as possible but still a possibility.) I’m open to pretty much all modes of transport and feel like I’ll get around to traveling in pretty much every way there is to travel before I lay down my walking stick and turn into a tree… which I’m not planning on for quite a few years. Longevity and stubbornness are on my side and so is my faith the serendipitous nature of the universe.

I want to soak into the dirt that made me, follow the river to Cairo, IL, and bounce along the old National Highway. If you’ve read me at all, you know I’m not one for touristy excursions, but there will be some excursions, I hope. Geography is powerful, but maps are man-made collectively accepted delusions. One could even argue that a map is a kind of violence… an “extraordinarily vivid hallucination.” As a matter of fact, that’s what I am arguing. And that’s why I’m going. And that’s why I always come back.

Originally published at on September 8, 2021.




Writer. Raconteur. Too many interests to list, so just keep reading.

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Ey Mick

Ey Mick

Writer. Raconteur. Too many interests to list, so just keep reading.

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