In the Wild You’re Allowed to Eat Anything You Want, pt. 2

Growing up in the country of southern Indiana gave me a thirst and a taste for the outdoors. With no neighbors in sight I instead found comfort in wandering the fields surrounding our house. Maybe I’ve come to the part in my life where I reflect more than usual, maybe it’s just a need to grasp something I can fully understand, but I definitely felt the need to return to southern Indiana and breathe in the air that inflated my body in the first place.

Wait patiently and one of these monsters will surely fall and kill you.

Wait patiently and one of these monsters will surely fall and kill you.

I knew that my destination would be the Hoosier National Forest located a few miles north of where I grew up and a few miles south of where I learned many a life lesson. After some internet wilderness stalking I happened upon the Charles C. Deam Wilderness resting on the southern border of Lake Monroe. With dozens of miles of trails, multiple antique cemeteries, and lack of modern conveniences I was sold. The fact that it was my home turf just added to the welcoming feeling. It’s almost as if I knew all those trees by name anyway. (‘Hey, Chance…how’s the bum limb? Oh! Slipper! Lookin’ good!’)

After leaving work I stopped by the rental car place where a god awful VW bug, painted a sorority beach slut yellow, was waiting for me. I stopped by the REI to pick up some freeze-dried goodies and then home to pick up the thawed goodie of a dog and hit the road.

Driving through northern Indiana reminded me of why the state gets a poor rap. Completely flat, sparse, and horrendously ugly. One reaches Indianapolis, aka The Crossroads of America (because everyone drives through and never stops), and then Martinsville (the current home of the KKK) and then the beauty overtakes any other thoughts. Rolling hills show their goods and the air holds the scent of sustainability and love. I chose to miss the exit so as to drive through the city of Bloomington, an odd liberal university town in the guts of red state epitome. It was a need of mine to drive by old apartments that housed my young drunk bones and piece together the events that have brought me to where I am today. The cool, summer night brought back memories of basement shows, walking with friends/co-conspirators, and long gone people hopefully in better places now than then.

Continuing out of town I located the short highway 446 that cuts Lake Monroe in half and accesses the many recreation areas that pepper the hills like shotgun spray. The road I needed to take, Firetower Way, was a small gravel vein nearly invisible in the dark of Indiana night. After turning around time and again I surrendered myself to the gravel and the woods and my reeling brain. Three miles of bumps and nothing brought us to the small parking lot at the Grubb Ridge trailhead.

As Emma happily relieved herself in the brush I readied myself for the woods. This means:

  • Placing phone and house keys in the glove compartment.
  • Double-checking supplies, most importantly food, water, and tobacco.
  • Taking a breath and saying goodbye to the music that I pollute all my waking hours with.
  • Bug spray application.
  • A final look at the edge of the woods that are readying to swallow me whole.

A recent rainfall moistened the ground to the consistency of a bloated sponge making the six mile trek a little more difficult than usual. It can be easy to focus on negative aspects but the haunting, quiet surroundings prevents the mind, my mind, from doing so. I can only trudge along and smile at the lack of people, responsibilities, and gneral society hubbub. As the humidity soaked my brow and being the trail winded through seemingly untouched woods,

When you befriend trees they will actually build stairs for you. Fascinating.

When you befriend trees they will actually build stairs for you. Fascinating.

opening up every now and again to marked campsites, each one being “still too close to the road” for my liking. An hour and a half in I found the short plateau that would be my home for the night.

I set to work on firewood first and foremost. The damp kindling was, luckily, no match for my cotton ball/petroleum jelly firestarter combo and after only a few minutes I became the god of light. Surrounding fell trees provided ample fuel for my nocturnal episode of thinking and it was here that I was sitting when I heard the thunder roll.

A rainfall in the woods is nothing to worry about because the canopy will absorb 3/4 of the downfall. However when your backpacking partner (a loose term in that she refuses to carry ANYTHING) is a dog that shudders at the mention of thunder it is a completely different story. A hug and a cradling does nothing to her fear-induced epilepsy. I quickly set up the tent and rain flap much to her glee as she retreated into the shelter right away leaving me to the fire and the whiskey. As she dozed I remained transfixed, lost in what would become one of the most important decisions of my life. Which will be written about at another time.

After a few hours I joined her in the tent and joined her in fear as I realized the entire shelter had been overrun with Daddy Long Leg spiders. Don’t get me wrong, bugs and the like bother me none. Spiders, on the other hand, core me like an apple; the addition of those two legs makes all the difference in the world. It’s like they have the unmatched ability to both transform me to a child so as to beat me up on the playground and belittle me to a useless mound of ACK simultaneously. Who gave these fuckers so much power? The only way to overcome my arachnophobia was to rid my sleeping quarters of the harmless beasts. Headlamp and a dram of whiskey for courage I set about grabbing hair-thin legs and tossed them into the surrounding brush. (Though my fear is great I don’t wish to kill them. It is their home that I’ve intruded, after all.) Now with an almost spider-free tent (a few scurried over my face as I drifted off to sleep) I lied and waited for the storm. The lightning flashes retarded my descent into sleep for only a short period. I can’t say the same for the wide-eyed hound at my side. Poor Ladybird.

The birds screamed at me until consciousness racked my slumber. The rain continued as did the thunder. The deep gray of the sky held a banner that read, “All Day Summer Storm!” The choice stared me in the face: continue and receive a selfish satisfaction of rope swings and dangerous thunderstorm lake swimming or hike back to the car to get this poor blessing of a dog out from the middle of her greatest fear. Though I am, more often than not, an extremely selfish person I also cannot stand by while something I care about so deeply stands and trembles out of their own pants. If she had pants on.

Mentally mold this to a female business outfit and you get the idea.

Mentally mold this to a female business outfit and you get the idea.

After packing everything in a quick and efficient manner (I think I’m getting good at this) we headed back to the slut mobile. Though her apprehension remained for half of the hike I think a realization came that she would soon be out of trouble and into the safe haven of 50mph motion and warm arms of death metal. A hop in her step and a calm in my heart at making the right decision we got muddy, funny, and cruddy and up to the knees in filth we found ourselves back at the trailhead.

A little dismayed at the shortened trip I decided to make a few stops in Bloomington to revisit some haunts. First stop was Soma, the coffee house where I began my illustrious coffee career. A few steps down and I looked around at the unchanged decor; flyers for upcoming theme parties and basement shows, goofy signs, and summer students at laptops sitting next to aquarium televisions and neon green and orange walls. I ordered a double espresso and thought to strike up a conversation with the young lady barista.

“You know I used to work here. Like ten years ago.”

“Huh.” Walks away seemingly creeped out by my statement. It could’ve been that I have inadvertently become a questionable character or the simple fact that I was covered head to toe in dried mud. I finished the poorly pulled shot (but tasty nonetheless) and walked through, head cocked due to the low doorways, to the attached record store, deemed Best Record Store in the World by yours truly.

Smiles all around at Soma. Just dont try to start conversation while both looking and smelling like shit.

Smiles all around at Soma. Just don't try to start conversation while both looking and smelling like shit.

TD’s CDs and LPs.

Rows and stacks and corners and geometric miracles housed the kookiest music found in Indiana. It is here that I began the poor, and fun, habit of spending any extra cash on records of all kinds. True aural sex. A new (to me) local section caught my eye. A Merzbow remix of Racebannon? Dear god! Old friends’ bands re-released on vinyl? For ten greens? Oh, lord. Nerd boner. Noner. Hardy boy.

With arms full I approached the counter. Creepy exchange #2 is go:

“You know I haven’t been here since Tom ran the place.”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“Tom Donahue. He’s the ‘TD’ in TD’s. He died of cancer a few years ago.”

“Huh. Will this be all?”

With squinted, jilted eyes and clenched fists to his nonchalance at the death of my friend and stupidity of history of his workplace I said, “I’ll take a T-shirt as well. <pause> Medium.” I felt like David Lee Roth in the beginning of the Yankee Rose video. (I wanted to link it but it has disappeared from the intercontinental video machine.)

I made my way back to the car with fresh vinyl and an aroma of mud and woods to find Emma sitting patiently with those brown eyes that melt me like chocolate. Next stop, Upland brewery for a few growlers of delicious beer that is unavailable anywhere else. Can’t go home with ears happy and liver bored, after all.

Feeling slightly out of place in my weathered outfit, I planted myself at the bar next to a lunch-drunk blonde that was more inquisitive than creeped out. Which was more confusing than any of the awkward exchanges prior.

“Doo yoo wooork innn constuction?”

“No. Ha. No, just got back from camping in the National Forest. I am just stopping by to bring some beer back to Chicago.”

“I’mmm goooing camping tooonight. It’ss a d-d-date.”

“Oh, nice. Where are you going?”

“I’on’t knoooow. What’sss down there?”

“Well, if you take 446…,” and I went on to explain the different camping options. Probably more than she wanted to know.

The picture in my mind of her Chicago friends. Sure, nice to look at but a nightmare to be alone with.

The picture in my mind of her Chicago friends. Sure, nice to look at but a nightmare to be alone with.

“Yooooou. Know. I havvve girlfriends that live in Shakagooo. THEY THINK IT’SSS THE GREATEST. ‘S’not so cooool.”

“I agree. When people first move there they think it’s really awesome. Then they find out about the crime and the poor schools and the crooked government…”

“YEEEEAH. Not cooool.”

“Well, I’m not saying that Chicago’s not cool. It really is a great city. I’m just a little tired of it is all.”

<burp>

“So, are you going camping just for fun?”

“Whyyy elssse would I beee going?”

“Good point.”

“And I’m gonnnnnna wear thissss,” motioning to her skirt. Her legs turned slightly towards me. I think I was getting hit on. But usually that doesn’t include advice for a date later in the day…or does it? I have no clue as I am the worst person to consult about the rules of dating and whatnot. I did, however, find myself kinda creeped out by her.

“Really?”

“Hahahahaha…noooo.” Now hand on my leg. I should enjoy this but I don’t. In my mind she is the picture perfect example of an unhappy relationship. ‘Yeah, we met at a bar. At NOON. I gave her advice for her date and the dude found out, came to Chicago, and beat the crap out of me. She then cared for me after he cut off my left foot.’

My growlers were finally ready and I quickly wished her luck on her date and made my way back to the car. I felt the need to explain my long absence to the questioning eyes of my dog. ‘Really, Emma, it was nothing. I mean she was rather forward but I would never leave you.’

This is how a super dog sleeps.

This is how a super dog sleeps.

Now with beer and music I was ready to return to the city for a long night of music and libation liberation. The only thing between me and that was 150 miles of loud, dangerous highway.

Emma slept and I daydreamed about the near future and the happiness that has already reared its beautiful head. More on that at a more proper time.

Enjoy some Southern Indiana Nutso Metal Masterminds.

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