Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beginning 2015

Beginning 2015

              After the 10 days spent in the woods, I was invited to stay at an old artist friend's home. This artist chose to remain anonymous, so I'll refer to them as Anonymous Artist, or Anon for short. We had emailed back and forth a couple of times, and had settled on a day to meet up, so I packed up the
DragonWagon, and headed to Anon's place. They had 5 acres of land, considerably wooded, where I could camp. They had a bathroom with a shower that was accessible to me, and an art studio I was able to use to work on a couple of commissions I had lined up. One was a little too large to work on in the woods, so I graciously accepted the offer to use the studio, while the other I had already started working on while I was out there.

              When I got to the house, Anon was noticeably ill, coughing and looking exceptionally tired. Anon explained that a family member had gotten them sick, and it was the worst illness they'd had in over a decade, so it was hitting hard. Anon had an art show coming up in a couple of days, out of town, which required loading and set up. They were very worried about how they'd be able to manage it, feeling the way they were. I offered to help however I could. Anon was an oil painter, using canvases anywhere from 2'x2' to 4'x6', and with 11 works, this was no small load. On top of that, they had to load up the tent and hardware to display the works, since the show was outdoors. Anon had one young family member coming to help, so the van would be full, with no room for another. I was asked to stay in the studio for the weekend, to watch the place and feed the dogs. I assured them that whatever was needed of me, I was willing to do.

              The time came to load the van the next day, and it was no small feat. There were the pipes to the tent, the canopy, the display walls, 7 of the 11 works that were over 3'x4', cardboard between the works for protection, blankets for extra protection, display table, folding chairs, cooler, luggage, and people. Anon sat in a chair too weak to help, but to stubborn not to try, doing their best to direct the process. From experience, things had to fit a certain way, or it would not fit at all. After much effort, the bulk of the load was tightly wedged in the van. Anon then realized that there were a couple of things needed to be purchased, and since the family member was too young to drive and Anon too tired and sick, I offered to go for them. I purchased the few things that they were lacking, and returned promptly. Upon my return, Anon was just getting off the phone with another family member, who had convinced them that there was no way they'd be able to manage by themselves once they got there. They would need more help. Anon asked if it would be okay if I came along. I told them whatever they needed was fine, but I didn't want to be a nuisance once there. They assured me it would not be a problem, they'd be staying with family who had more than enough room for everyone. I quickly packed a small bag, locked and hid the DragonWagon, and loaded the rest of the van. I was to ride in between the two front seats, sitting on the cooler.

              The art show went well, and Anon's family received us warmly. It was a good weekend of working and learning. We set up the tent the night before the show, got all the works arranged, and headed back to the house for a few hours of sleep before coming back out in the morning. I got to walk around and view other artists' works, talked to a few, and learned a few things. There were painters, digital artists, jewelers, chalk artists, 3D assemblage artists, photographers, charcoal artists, and more. One artist in particular caught my interest. He did fine line illustrations, and much of his work was based on dragons (can't imagine why that peaked my interest). We talked for a good while, as I asked questions and pleaded for advice. He told me of his early beginnings, the peak of his career, and the hard hit from the recession with steady decline since. He explained how the field is not what it used to be, but if one adapts, it is possible to make it. It was quite an enlightening conversation.

              Once the art show was finished, and we were back to Anon's house, I insisted they get some rest while I unloaded the vehicle. I was afraid that if Anon were anywhere near the scene, they would be obliged to help, and their health was a concern at this point, even several days later. Anon was very thankful, and very tired, so they rested while I put everything back where it belonged. I was then getting ready to set up in the woods of their backyard, when they insisted I stay in the studio, where there was a couch I could sleep on. I insisted that it would not be a problem for me to stay outside, but they were much more insistent that I stay in. I thanked them kindly, and got to work on my commissions.

              The first of my commissions I had already started to sketch out while I was staying in the woods for those 10 days, so I was well into it. I was comfortable with it, and it was very much in my own style. I was asked to draw a dog from a photo, the only challenge being that the dog was jet black. That had me a little worried, not knowing how well it would turn out, but as I picked up momentum with it, it proved to be a good result. I was quite proud of the outcome. The second commission, however, was of a horse trotting through a field. Horses are difficult, because they are powerfully large creatures who show the daintiest of grace. Getting the proportions right and the demeanor of the "light as air" horse was very challenging. It's easy to make it look too heavy, too grounded. Anon helped me incredibly by giving me a fresh look at it every so often. Anon is infamous for honesty and bluntness when it comes to others' works, which is invaluable to the progression of a good piece. When I work too closely with photos, I sometimes begin to lose sight of the grand picture, and draw myself into a corner. Having an experienced artist advise me along the way was incredibly refreshing. The result was the best I've had yet. I took on a style far from my own comfort zone, and couldn't be more proud of the outcome. I owe Anon immense gratitude for the guidance along the way.

Heading Out to the Gathering

              Once my commissions were complete, it was time to head out. The location for the Rainbow Gathering in the woods was finally made public, so I knew where I was heading. I'd stayed with Anon for about a week and a half, doing what I could to help out while they recovered. Anon cooked a huge breakfast for my departure. As I was packing the wagon, getting ready to go, Anon came out with a camera asking to take some pictures for some art students. Anon said I'd make great source material. Imagine that, kids painting my likeness? Though unlikely, I did like the thought of inspiring someone to draw or paint anything. We left with many thanks to each other, and promised to keep in touch. It was a priceless visit for me.

              I took a short walk or 3 or 4 miles to the Burger King just outside the Ocala National forest. I wanted to check in with the family before disappearing into the woods again. I had also been in touch with another friend who had managed to find the magazine article that was written about my adventure. Remember when I was walking over the bridge and found a lady waiting at the other end with a camera? She actually published the article, and it turned out really nice. Sadly my name was misspelled, but otherwise a very good article. My friend was going to meet me at the BK, and give me a few copies she'd saved for me.

              I decided, before heading into the Burger King, to find a place to camp for the night, since I wouldn't be meeting up with my friend, Miranda, until around 4. I wasn't sure if it would be dark before I'd get a chance to find one, so I might as well do it first. I found a wooded area near the BK (not hard this close to the national forest), and headed in. There was a lot of trash in these woods, and several dirt roads. I walked past at least three shopping carts strewn about, a couple of campfire spots, and lots of abandoned clothes. It seemed many people had stayed out in these woods, whether in the past, or recently. I went farther into the woods until I saw little evidence of trash or "campsites," and found a concealed corner to park the wagon. I'd have to hide it, and set up camp at night so as not to make it too obvious to find. I moved a few loose branches out of the way, and started to back the wagon into the bushes, when I suddenly heard a distant, "heeeeeeeyyy!" I looked around, and just up the dirt road, maybe 100 ft away, was a man staring right at me. Shit. I've been spotted. "Heeeeeeeeeyyyyy," he hollered again, "you drink beer?" he held up a large can. He was inviting me over. I mulled it over for a second. He didn't seem to be threatening at all, but could I trust him? A random guy drinking alone out in the middle of the woods? I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and answered, "sure, thanks." Maybe I'm too trusting. Maybe I should've just turned around and left. Maybe...

              He offered me a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I thanked him, and after a brief examination of the can, I opened it. I didn't unstrap the wagon from my waist. I didn't sit down. I kept one hand close to my walking stick. I kept my ears alert for anyone else around. We drank and chatted. His name was Jason, and he'd been homeless for a while. He did odd jobs here and there to get by, was divorced, had kids out in Tennessee, and was fighting a cold. I told him about my own travels, about my art, and that I was heading out for the Rainbow Gathering. He mentioned he had taught himself to draw at the public library, but hadn't done it for a while, so I encouraged him to pick it back up and never stop. He mentioned he'd heard of the gathering but hadn't ever been, so I suggested he attend and check it out, since that's what I was doing. Once the conversation was winding down, and I'd finished my beer, I offered him a can of chicken rice soup I happened to have with me, to hopefully fight off the cold he had, in thanks for the beer. We shook hands, and I left. He seemed like a nice guy, but I couldn't leave the wagon out here now. I took it with me, back out of the woods, to the BK.

              As I was crossing the road to get to the BK, I saw a guy sitting at the corner, holding up a sign that said "SMILE." As I got close, he saw my wagon, smiled and waved. I waved back. "I guess you're here for the same reason I am," he said. II told him I hadn't initially come here for it, but stuck around once I'd heard of it. I asked if he was hungry, offered to buy him something at the BK. "I could eat," he confessed, getting up and grabbing his pack. He carried a backpack and a blanket covering some sort of poles. He was barefoot, and wore a bandana holding up his dreadlocks. He introduced himself as "Priest." I'd heard that the Rainbow people take on nicknames for these events. I parked the wagon outside the BK, within eyeshot, and in we went for some lunch. While in line to order, an older gentleman, with a Navy veteran's cap on came over inquiring if that was my rig outside. I told him it was, and I could see curiosity light up on his face. He was about to ask something else when Priest interjected, saying we were heading out to the national forest. The veteran looked at him and asked if we were travelling together, and I told him I'd just met Priest outside. "Oh okay, I guess I just want to talk to him then, looks like he's in it for the long haul," said the veteran referring to me. I guess this didn't sit well with Priest, because as the vet looked down at my toed shoes and inquired about them, Priest immediately stepped back into the conversation before I could respond. "Oh I walked through a pair of those last year walking from the Keys," I could tell the vet was not amused by Priest's interjection. I explained to the veteran that they were very comfortable, and worked well with the low arches on my feet, and another girl who was in line with another gentleman got curious about them as well, "they're comfortable??" I turned to her and told her I'd walked well over 200 miles in them with no problems at all. Priest then stepped in and stated he'd been walking for over 500 miles... With this, the conversation, and everyone's curiosity, was stifled. The girl and the gentleman turned back to the counter, the veteran said a quick "good luck" and headed back to his table. Priest smiled, apparently proud of his one-upmanship. That could have been an interesting conversation to have with a group of random strangers, but it didn't seem Priest liked the attention being away from him.

              Sitting down to eat with Priest was a little unpleasant for me. He was a boaster. If I had an opinion, he had a better one. If I'd done something, he'd done it twice, or bigger, or better. After just a couple of my own statements in the conversation, I could see where this was headed if I tried to say anything else, so I took to asking questions about the gathering, see if I could learn anything interesting from him, instead. He'd been going for 8 years, and knew quite a bit about them. I didn't learn much from him since any question I asked went into a story about something completely different, so I left it at that. I was getting nothing useful from him, and his mannerisms were unpleasant. He was very cocky, and seemed to "know it all." I finished my lunch quickly, and we headed outside.

              We met another guy in the parking lot, clearly going to the same place. He introduced himself as Polar Bear, and had just come from the site for the gathering. He said he would've loved to have stayed, but had other pressing issues outside of the state to take care of. Priest was determined to describe his own pressing issues, steamrolling the conversation. It was around this time I decided to part ways with Priest, wishing him luck on his travels, and that we might meet up at the gathering. I would have liked to talk more with Polar Bear, but not at the price of being around Priest any longer.

              I went back into the BK and got in touch with Miranda, to see if she was still good to meet up. She had an appointment to get to, and was getting out of work late, so she would have to reschedule. We were to meet up later in the evening. I decided I'd better take the opportunity to find a spot to camp before it got dark out. I found a different part of the woods, deeper in still, with no trash and no sign of people. I covered the DragonWagon with the tarp, being sure to use the brown side so as not to be so visible, then covered it with branches. I took a few steps away from it, and almost completely lost sight of it. I had to be sure to get good landmarks to get back to it. On my way out of the woods, I heard a couple of voices up ahead. Two men were also walking out of the woods in front of me. Well, this woods were definitely populated. I'd have to be careful on my way back in. I waited until they were out of sight and earshot, then headed out. I realized that I'd taken a wrong turn, because when I came out of the woods I was at a different place than when I went in. I hoped I would do better at night to find the wagon again.

              I eventually met up with Miranda, and we managed to catch up. We hadn't spoken since high school, but had kept up loosely on Facebook. I met her boyfriend, who was genuinely curious of my adventure, and her daughter, who immediately headed for the play pen. She'd brought me three copies of the magazine, and I thanked her. When they left, I sat down to read what the article.

              As I reached the original entrance to the woods, I saw a few people in the parking lot. Some restaurant workers were taking a break out back, some people were sitting in their cars while parked, and some people were coming in and out of the restaurant. I didn't want to be seen walking into the woods, so I decided I would take the alternate route I'd mistakenly taken on my way out. It was well enough out of the way that no one would see me in the dark. I reached it, and stopped just as I went in to the tree-line. I couldn't see a thing, it was too dark and the trees too thick. I took a few steps off the trail I was in, into the bushes, cracking some branches under my feet. I sat down, closed my eyes, and listened. I allowed my eyes to get used to the dark, and gave my ears a chance to acclimate to the sounds. I waited for about five minutes, sitting with my eyes closed, before I got up and started walking. The moonlight was piercing through the canopy of the trees, shedding enough light to see, and the woods were dead quiet on ground, only making slight rustling noises up in the branches. I took slow deliberate steps, listening for voices or footsteps. I took my time getting back to the DragonWagon, and when I reached the last landmark, I stopped, waited, and looked around, listening. When I was satisfied no one had followed, I walked over to where the wagon was, only I didn't see it. I looked back at my landmark to be sure I went in the right direction, which I had. I looked around, and couldn't see it. My heart started to pound quicker, louder. I took a couple of steps forward, held out my arms, and hit a few loose branches. There, only two feet in front of me, was the DragonWagon. Damn I'd done too good a job with the camouflage. It was right in front of me and I couldn't see it, knowing it was right there. I waited a couple of hours before setting up camp, since it would be a noisy process. When I was satisfied no one would be coming around, I set it up, and went to sleep.

              Tomorrow I will be heading out into the forest for the Rainbow Gathering. I am both excited and apprehensive. I have heard, from a multitude of people, really great things and really terrible things about it. I've been told it would be an unforgettable experience, something not to be missed. I was told that the people there are amazing, loving, and accepting. I was told everyone helps everyone else, and that people there are great. On the other hand, I've been told people go there to steal. I've been told criminals go there, the homeless take advantage of the kind, and a truly unsavory lot attend. I've been told not to go, and I was told not to miss it. I don't know what to believe or what to expect. I've questioned my decision of going a few times. My conclusion is to go and see for myself. One of the things I've set out to do on this journey is to experience life for myself and come up with my own conclusions based on my own experiences. I will take the warnings seriously, but I will show up with an open mind. I'll hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Who knows what will happen.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ending 2014


              My time at David and Patty's was great. It was really good to catch up with them, spend time together, and just relax. I did my best to not let those same feelings I had at Scott's come back to take over my attitude. The first thing I did was take a shower and wash my clothes. I had a clean set I had been saving especially for this situation, kept safely in a plastic bag, away from dirt and dampness. I offered to help around the house, did some dishes here and there, helped replace a section of screening in their back porch, even offered to do some yard work (which we never actually got around to. I feel pretty bad about that). These things helped to avoid the negativity I'd felt previously. David and I reconnected with a couple of old friends, and I even got to attend a post-Thanksgiving party with his wife's coworkers where we had a huge potluck feast. We spent a great few days together before they had to leave town for a while.

              I hooked up the DragonWagon, and was on my way to find a decent place to stay. While I was at David's I'd looked up the closest McDonald's and Burger Kings to his house so I could have a wifi connection nearby. It was only 3 or 4 miles away, so it was a nice little walk, though a little brisk as the temperature had been dropping. I made it to the Burger King in time for some breakfast. I parked the wagon outside, chaining it to the bike rack, and went straight into the bathroom for some quick business. I went up to the counter afterwards, to order my breakfast. "Is that yours out there?" asked the woman behind the counter before I could say anything, gesturing to the DragonWagon in view through the window. Crap. My first thought was something along the lines of, "we don't serve your kind here." I confessed apprehensively that it was. "Here," she said pulling out a plastic bag and a cup from behind the counter, "some lady asked me to give this to you when you came out." Inside the bag was a banana, a honey bun, and a couple of other breakfast foods, and the cup was a hot coffee. I asked her who the lady was, but she said she didn't know, she had just dropped off the bag and left. "Did you still want to order anything?" I thought about it for a second, since I was still really surprised by this token of kindness from some mystery woman. I decided, since I don't drink coffee regardless of how much I try, that I would order a large drink. "Oh, is that it? Here, you can have it." She handed me the cup and refused my cash. I thanked her humbly for her unexpected generosity, stacked on the generosity I'd already received. Humbled. I sat down to enjoy my first Honey Bun, and drew.

              I found a little patch of thick woods behind a Winn Dixie in the same plaza as the Burger King, and parked the wagon amongst the trees. It was almost midday, so it was warming up outside with the sun. I looked around for signs of other "residents" in the woods, not wanting to intrude on any possible neighbors. I locked up the DragonWagon, still packed in case I needed to find a different place, and went exploring. There were a couple of patches where some people had evidently stayed, empty liquor and beer bottles, random trash centralized near a tree or two, an old decrepit mattress deteriorated through time and weather. It didn't look like anyone had been around for a long time. I went in a little farther, and saw something through the trees. I walked towards it. As I got closer I realized it was a tent, and a big one at that. It wasn't store bought, but constructed of mismatched tarps, sheets, and other things. I kept my distance, not wanting to startle anyone residing in there. It was just past the opposite tree line of the woods I had chosen, in a more open area between my woods and the next. This had clearly been here a long while. I decided not to go straight for it, but rather walk around it. I found what looked like a bike trail leading to it, parallel with the tree line. Whoever lived here had their pathway well worn in, well established. My curiosity begged me to inch closer, get a good look at the camp. From what I could see it was split into three different areas, the large tent, an area with what looked like empty crates, and a pile of random junk (possibly treasures accrued over time). I stood at the bike trail for a couple of minutes, still keeping my distance. It didn't look like anyone was around, so I could just go in for a quick look around. "How would you feel if someone were walking up on the DragonWagon right now? What if you had your camp set up and hoped no one would find it? That no one would get curious enough to intrude upon it?" I remembered the note that was left on my tent just a few days prior, "DO NOT STAY THERE. LEAVE TODAY." It had left me with a horrible feeling of intrusion. I decided, for the sake of karma if nothing else, to leave this encampment alone. Keeping my same distance, I circled back around the way I came, and headed back to my own spot.

              After setting up camp, I went back to the Burger King for some lunch/dinner and to draw for a while. I got in contact with one my friends I had reconnected with while in town. When she found out I was about to camp for the night, she told me it was too cold for that, and that I should come and stay with her. She even offered to pick me up since it was already dark out. This meant I couldn't take the DragonWagon, so I decided to risk leaving it in the woods, hoping my unintrusive karma would pay off. I grabbed my bag of clothes, my laptop bag, and my sketchbook.

              Sabrina welcomed me with open arms. I stayed with her and her friend, Ashley, whom I'd met a couple of times, years back. They had three kids between the two of them, two 8 year olds and a 2 year old. We had a blast. I played games with the kids, helped Sabrina cut down a massive tree branch (with an axe, at least 20 feet up the tree), we played manhunt in the dark, we climbed on top roof at night and stargazed (where I saw my first shooting star ever, then my second, then my third), we built a firepit, and, what turned out to be best of all for me, I drew pictures for the kids.

              When the kids had seen me drawing in my sketchbook they begged to see the entire book. One of them even told me I was "the second best drawer I've ever seen ever." One thing that bugs me a bit, though, is when people start trying to guess what my drawings are from. Since I don't ever really draw anything that already exists in a show or cartoon, it's a bit of a shot to the pride when people say, "that looks just like 'so-and-so' from 'such-and-such'. I try to keep it original, but sometimes it takes a kid or two to remind me just how hard it is to be completely new and different. Soon they were asking me if I was able to draw certain things. Ayden, one of the 8 year olds, pulled out a book of dragons and would point out his favorite ones, and asked me if I would be able to draw one of them. "Is this your favorite one?" I asked him when he chose the one he wanted me to draw. "No, but I think this is the hardest one to draw. I just wanna see if you can do it." I guess the kid was testing my skills.

              After almost a week with Sabrina and her family, I was ready to spend some time alone in the woods again. I'm not used to spending so much time continuously around kids, so it was an exhausting rollercoaster of emotions with them. Plus, it was time to check on the DragonWagon, and make sure my bad premonitions weren't made reality. Upon my return, I found, to my relief, that my camp remained untouched, and seemingly undiscovered. Although, a branch did fall on it. Luckily it didn't damage anything. Okay, that's cool. I can live with that.


              My family was going to spend Christmas in Philly at my sister's, so Papi convinced me to go. He would pick me up, we would stuff the DragonWagon in the back of his SUV, and we would drive the 18 hours up together. We spent a wonderful Christmas, all together. The kids got a ridiculous amount of toys, one of which was a couple of remote controlled helicopters. Ryan and I got busy setting up the two helicopters, since the kids really wanted to fly them. The one I was working on was ready to fly, so I took them outside to try it out. Ashton, who was 4 years old, asked if he could fly it first since it was his present. Being the idiot that I am as far as kids go, I saw absolutely no problem with this. Ash took the controller, I turned on the helicopter, and off it went! It flew straight up into the sky! It flew up, up, up... Right into the tree. Shit. It got stuck on a branch some fifty feet up the damn tree. Ash turns to me with the worst look on his face I'd ever seen. I was at a loss... I tried mashing the controls with the hope having it nudge itself free, but the damn thing was lodged in tight. Ryan came out to see the catastrophe that was unfolding, as did the rest of the family. Cool, I'm that uncle, the one who can't be trusted with kids, because he will allow Christmas to be ruined. Good job. We tried throwing things at it, but it was too high up and nothing got close. I tried climbing the tree but got to about 8 feet away from it before everyone's paranoia, and the negativity of a nosey neighbor, convinced me it was not worth it. Papi ended up putting together a makeshift 40 ft "stick" (out of a 12 ft ladder, some gutters off the side of the house, some PVC pipe, and a radio antena off his car, held together by some rope and masking tape). We struggled with it for close to an hour on a six foot ladder, trying to get it down. All in all, it took us about three hours to get the stupid thing down. I'm sure I won't be living this one down any time soon. Maybe we've just made a new Christmas tradition...

              The drive back to Ocala was a long one, with lots of stopped traffic. All the extra time gave way for a lot of much needed conversation with Mum. My conversations with her have been the deepest, most connective ones I ever have, especially lately. We would go for walks on trails near their house before I started my journey, and had some of the most meaningful conversations I can remember. The ones in the car were no different. After all, I'd been pouring out more internal thought in these blog posts than I ever do in person. I don't excel in one on one conversation, so this blog has been a very surprising outlet for me. I never thought of writing as something that would help me deal with what's happening around me.

              When we were back in Ocala, we pulled up to the back of the Winn Dixie, out of common sight, and close to the wooded area I'd stayed at a few days prior. It was time to unload the DragonWagon in all of its pieces. There seemed to be so much more than before as we pulled it all out of the car. I had left some stuff behind, gained a few new things from Christmas presents, so it wasn't exactly as it was before. It was already dark out, and it was getting late. We'd been in the car for two days, several hours driven before arriving there, and my parents still had a couple of hours to drive home. I did my best to get everything put together so they wouldn't have to wait around. I could tell they were feeling weird about not being able to help. I was rushing so they could go, but I didn't want them to feel like I was shooing them away. Finally, when I was about halfway done putting it all away, Mum said they should go. I agreed that it would be best if they did so they could get home at a decent hour. They were reluctant. I could tell they didn't want to leave me here. How do you assure your parents that you'll be okay, even though things don't look so great from their perspective? They drove off, and I finished packing it all up. I snuck into the woods again, and set up my tent in the moonlight.

*If you get a chance, please read Mum's blog. It broke my heart to read it from her point of view.*


Ending 2014

              After spending a couple of days in the woods, I went back to Sabrina's place for New Years. We made a fire in the firepit I'd helped her build, I helped around the house with lights and fans, set up some shelves in her kids' closet, and did my best to help out with dishes and such. Over the few days I stayed with them we went rock climbing and even got a canoe trip down the river where we saw some monkeys. Quite the little adventure. I drew a couple more drawings for the kids, all by request, and one that Ayden actually wanted to color himself.

              I left her place after a few days to go back to the woods. I found a different patch of woods that was a little farther down the road, away from the neighbor I'd found in the back of the previous one. I didn't want any curious folk stumbling on my camp, so I'd decided not to press my luck in the same location. I've now spent 7 days in the woods, bouncing between my tent, the local McDonald's and Publix. The first day, while I was checking in online at the McD's, there was a teenage looking kid who lingered around the table next to mine after his family had gotten up to go. I noticed him out of the corner of my eye, but hadn't thought anything of it. I was too engrossed in my conversation online with a friend on Facebook. After a couple of minutes he said, "so, are you just doing this for fun?" I looked up to see he was talking to me. I explained it in a few words, then his mother walked up. "He's says he's keeping a blog, mom." They explained they had seen me a few weeks back when I pulled up to the Burger King, the morning the mystery lady had bought me breakfast. She said they were looking at my wagon back then, really curious about what I was doing. They seemed really happy they ran into me again, and seemed excited to read up about what I was doing. They left in a bit of a hurry since they had someone waiting for them in the car, so I didn't manage to get their names. Thanks for your interest, if you're reading this. It's always nice to have people intrigued about what I'm doing. They seemed like a very nice family.

              I've found I prefer being on the move, rather than staying in one location over time. Why am I staying here, then? I'm sticking around to attend the Rainbow Family Gathering in the Ocala National Forest at the start of February. After talking to a few more people about it, and looking it up on the internet, I think it will be a great experience for me at this point in my life. I'm looking for new experiences and to meet new people, so this seems like a great opportunity for that. From what I've heard, it's a gathering where people camp out together, work on a barter system, help each other out, and pray for the betterment of the world. The peace, love, and prayer are a little too on the hippy side for me, but I'm willing to try something new. Plus, with everyone camping out, it should make me feel right at home, make me blend in easier. Who knows what I'll learn, see, do, or come out of it with. I'm looking forward to the experience. Until then, I'll be working on new drawings...