Calling All Cars To Say Hello, Part 3

Here we are again, on the highway. I’m getting used to the pack again, and that was always an adjustment, no matter how many times I took it off and put it back on, and I’d gotten a rucksack attached to me in the Green Berets, 20 years earlier—I mean fitted to my back like it was a growth on it, if you know about SF and rucking. Although there was plenty of traffic, I found myself doing more of a rucksack march than hitching. Nobody was picking me up, at all. I’d taken the Old Roman Road, not the freeway, going south to catch the ferry to Greece. My plan had been to go to Athens for the winter if Rome failed, and it had. Damn them barbarians. I’d started my journey from Paris, and I mean this looking for a place to hold up for the winter leg of it, as Paris didn’t let me stay either.

You ever heard of a city being? They exist, but the city has to be near as old as the hills, or is or is going to be really a hub of things, to grow a proper one. I’m not talking about the soul things but of things we aren’t yet aware of. Being is larger than form, can take form in inanimate things, in a complex system such as a city for example, an exceptional and lonely mountain, or an old haunted island for that matter. I can go on, but that’s enough to try and wrap your head around the idea. Is a city being conscious? I really asked Paris to let me stay, put little notes in the crevices of some of its monuments asking that, walked its streets with that request in my heart and mind, told it to its residents I met in its parks, but only the ones that looked to have an ear for it. One kind and wise lady I spoke to in a park, and Paris is a place of parks, told me not to be disappointed if I couldn’t stay, said it like she knew I wouldn’t be able to, and I knew Paris was speaking but didn’t want to know that. You know how it is when you hear words of fate. “If this city wants me to leave…,” meaning city you jerk, and this was my muse at the time.

The big problem with Paris is I’m having to look at myself—

comida national.

Assembly, the unconsciously decided.

There is a Paris watching.

And if I ask,

I think maybe there was a seeing from the beginning.

                                                           (my muse back then)

If you know how to sit and look, or walk and do so, you can catch a city being being a city unto itself, its central movement that is, doing something vital in the city, but it’s being a city being all over the city, even in our homes and offices. I think it’s photography that can best capture a city’s central movements so people can see them, the stark way it shows an event, one, single frame of movement, what happens too quick for the naked eye, but when we see what we’ve captured, God dog, we’ve caught something alive, however deft it might be.

It’s a real being.

There’s thick there.

That means slow, retarded movement.

Leave a lot of space.

You mean a self?

And there it looks.


We could just turn to brotherhood,

how it serves up its food.

It’s the biggest model in the house.

Can you see it?

I wasn’t an obstacle.

It didn’t step in and make sure I stayed.

It didn’t come around with a house.

Do I see a snob?

Um, Rascal?

I don’t think his notebooks make poems yet.

Off the grid.

Can you see Paris?

I’ve given you a world.

That’s the world being,

who I’m really sneaking up on.

How about the surveillance camera?

A bigger monster

than a ghoul.

You hear me sweetheart?

I’m listenin’ to these hoods in culture.

That’s about to happen somewhere.

Hunt me down and kill me

if I still told you.

Nobody works for his realization.

You look like a rascal.

They just put the glasses on me.

Can we curd this?

You have those messages now

tellin’ people you’re sorry.

You are the hour of the unmanifest.

You are a vehicle of the unmanifest.

Hear the world here.

It’s the unmanifest.

Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye

Mr. Armstrong.

Details to get out of prison,

cramped experience.

I’d taken the Old Roman Road because it sounded romantic, and ancient, and I was into ancient. It was not, however, a very practical decision it turned out. While I’m sure I got at least one ride before I got to Lake Albano, 25 klicks south of Rome, I don’t remember any such significant cultural exchange up to that point, and, believe me, if you’re an American hitching in almost any other country with the possible exception of Canada, ehh, you have a little more umpth in your cultural exchange. You know the song: “America, fuck yeah!” Even if they don’t say much of anything, other than to ask where you’re from, the number one question both among travelers themselves meeting one another and when you’re a traveler meeting somebody regarding themselves as stationary beings, you feel both their ambiguity and awe over the good ole U.S. of A. It’s just the country, you know, love it or hate it.Who’s t-shirt does the world wear? I doubt the citizens of many other countries could vagabond quite like I was doing.I was in a similar position toole apostle Paul, carrying a U.S. passport that allowed me to go most anywhere almost no questions asked. In the newly formed European Union (I’d landed in it almost to the day the Euro was issued), whatever the regulations might’ve said, an American at that moment could travel freely and stay in any country without even showing your passport. “I’m an American.” “Oh yeah? You may pass.”

The road ran up steeply on the side of the lake, it to my left, it a bit breathtaking with all the villas along its shoreline, which were nestled in old trees, and it much bigger than I’d imagined it would be on the road going towards it, but it was soon so far below it was no longer the main event. The road was. Shaded and steep, at that juncture, I got a sense of its old age, like it was grooved into the land, which seemed to have shaped itself around it. Then came the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo. I took a detour and went into the compound, also on my left. I walked in a ways and walked back out, the two very young guards eyeing my suspiciously. I eyed them too. They were dressed in ridiculous feather-capped and striped, billowing attire, silly to my New World American mind at least, holding Medieval-style weapon-staffs. The young men were guarding the entrance to the Apostolic Palace, but their purpose was more ceremonial than real, obviously. I could not get over how proud they looked, like they were the pick of the litter. I guess it depends on your perspective. I have no room to talk seeing how ridiculous I must’ve looked to them. It’s just that there were no mirrors in that parking lot, for either of us. Soon I was back out on the highway, hitching to no avail.

You know, I did see the pope, but not there. One day back at the fort in Rome I’d gotten this sudden, strong urge to go to the Vatican, and I did. I hadn’t visited it yet. Inside there was such a hustle and bustle, and I soon learned a cardinal had died, and there was going to be a high mass, and the Pope was about to arrive. “Zenith outing, now that’s a big outing to stay away from,” my muse then. I waited a few minutes, and low and beyond, there he was, Pope John Paul II, standing on a platform being carried by several men down a corridor that ran along one side of the huge hall, marked off by those thick, slack, red, velvet ropes. He was being carried very slowly, and he was looking like a king back and forth at the crowd that lined both sides of the corridor, behind those ropes, and then our eyes met. We stared into each other’s eyes for about ten seconds or so, I kid you not, long enough for people in the crowd to turn and look at me too.

I must explain why he must’ve looked at me. The photo of me above looking like a John Lennon, or some rascal to many eyes, was not how I usually appeared. I never wore sunglasses, because I didn’t want to cover the soul in my eyes, wanted people to be able to see in there, and the person taking the photo just put theirs on me and took the picture, and I just had this feeling that that picture would be viewed a lot in the future, and that’s not exactly the case but close. I’m having to use it in my social media to show what I looked like with my long hair and beard, which I wore for 10 years of my life, from 31 to 41. During that time I didn’t take my own picture (no cellphones back then like now), and I seldom asked my picture to be taken. So I have mostly only the pictures people took of me that they took the trouble to give me, and so I have very few. Although when you get right down to it it’s another feature of self-importance actually, I thought asking or wanting to have my picture taken was vanity. Boy have I regretted that. Anyway, I don’t have good pictures to show you of my real look with long hair, looking at you that is, only ones like below that’s either taken out of group photo or not too clear. Whether you can see it or not in the photo, I got told every time I turned around that I looked like the historical image of Jesus. In Italy, that really meant something, let me tell you.

Lima, Peru, 2000

One time, however, the only time I got my passport checked the whole year and half I was in the European Union, it meant I looked like a dangerous freak. Shortly after the eye to eye staring session with the pope, I high off my ability to be somewhere someone important was about to show up, a vanity high really, I passed by somewhere on the street in Rome and saw, on what I don’t remember, the number 661. I’m into numbers to guide me, and I have my own repertoire of numbers for that, doubles being one thing, like 33, which was and is a number of divine action for me, or 41, which is my number for purity and sexual abstinence and just general wholeness, but triples being, or meaning, so much more, like 441 meant that those qualities were really being represented in the circumstances I saw the number in, or that I should really work much harder to produce those qualities. 661 is a bit different in that it’s the month and year of my birth, June 1961, and when I saw 61, I knew that I was in a really ‘me’ place or should take the number as a yellow brick road towards that, but when I saw 661, I knew that I was in circumstances as me as they could get, or would be if I ‘followed’ the number, or so I thought until this incident.

It certainly didn’t help my appearance that I’d just picked up this ridiculously large plastic flower on a long stem off the ground, which must’ve looked in my hands like a sort of scepter, picking up and carrying some ways strange or beautiful things lying on the ground or somewhere at hand being another thing with me. It also got taken along with my passport, the man taking it wearing this ‘you fool’ face, you absolute fruitcake. It did happen that someone important was about to show up, the prime minister of Italy no less, and there was a small crowd gathered there waiting for him, but I was the only one detained and taken inside the building. I wasn’t handcuffed, just told to wait near a security booth by some mafia-looking security men while they checked my passport for warrants or whatnot. I am sorry, but they didn’t look like secret service, more rough than that. I knew they knew I wasn’t dangerous, and they knew I knew that, as I spent more than a glace looking into the eyes of one of the goons, who met my gaze with utter contempt. The whole thing, I gathered, was just to rain on my parade, and I had been walking on air up to that moment. They saw someone a bit too free, or weird, and they wanted to rein him in and had the power to do so. They gave me back my flower too when they gave me back my passport, with that same look they had they taken it with, and I was told I could go. Yep, 661 also meant, or more meant, beware, something against you being you is about to happen. That was not a fun lesson in sequent numbers, and I felt like a little kid who’s ice cream just fell off the cone and onto the ground, only I didn’t cry. Needless to say, I didn’t wait around for the prime minister.

You’d ask how conscious Rome is. “You can also write to Rome,” my muse said while I was still in Paris, which can also mean the word right too, something the muse does often, makes a double meaning by implying a word that sounds the same as the word spoken but means something different. So, I could go right to Rome, and I could write letters to Rome like I did Paris so to stay there. Implicit in that is a conscious Rome, and walking around the city you can feel its beingness, its greatness actually, as my muse said of it at the time: “A greatness lies willed in the State of Rome,” but you just can’t help but chew on all the cruelty of its culture and its rule in its heyday, and you wonder where all that went to. For me, it’s a sign of our moral progress that, except for some hell opening here and there on the globe, a hell spot usually open somewhere at any given time for a spell, for the most part we aren’t like that anymore, or at least our gladiators don’t kill one another, and we feed people to the crowd to entertain ourselves, not to lions. Rome has also gone through great change, obviously, and I’m talking about the being Rome, but Rome did not match me like Paris did, and here’s a poet talking. At any rate, I couldn’t stay in either city and had to move on from both. My muse also said: “Rome , a preliminary thought for civilization,” and it said that on Crete weeks after I’d left Rome, and putting a personal interpretation on it, as, whether you realize it or not, your muse is always talking about you in some representative fashion or another, Rome was for me not a place to plant the civilization of myself, my culture; it was a prelude to my poetry and to this present story.

There on that Old Roman Road, I wasn’t getting any lifts. I don’t remember if I’d slept a night out or not before the lake or after, but, in any event, I remember that first night, where I just went into the olive trees along the side of the road, near dusk, and found a spot to lay down for the night. I had a small tent, but I only used it occasionally. My time in Special Forces had gotten me accustomed to doing things in the dark and to sleeping on the ground anywhere, but even still, each time I had to begin doing that again in my camping or vagabonding, it’d take about three nights before I got used to it. After the army, while I was going to college, I kept my skills up by often going alone for the weekend to nearby Sam Houston National Forest, where there was a wilderness area, and just roaming around the hiking trails or tracking deer, not to shoot, to get close enough to slap on the butt, something I’d read about in Tom Brown Junior’s books, which I was really into as a teenager before going into the army, any book about wilderness survival.

Donny Lee Duke Guest Writer

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