27 August 2007

Coast to coast - trailing the US activst calendar

Julian bounds naked across the rocky beach screaming with determination, hits the water, splashing in deeper with a few more leaps, then dives under the sparkling surface. In less than a blink of an eye in a shower of white surf he's resurfaced, screaming louder and urgent than before and runs twice as fast up the beach to a waiting towel, looking stunned. Its still early spring in Maine, and on impulse we've run away from the tour for a few days and hitched up to northern Maine, and now we've hit our first Ocean since Florida and are determined to take the plunge. Our local friends are looking dubious.

My turn. The running across rocks option isn't open to me, since busting my ankle in that fateful fall in the New Zealand mountains a few years back. So I put a foot in the surf washing up the beach and a numbing cold pain envelopes it. That aching deep-bone numb sensation that just feels wrong like death. I pull my foot out fast and its bright red and stinging. Surly if this water wasn't salty it would be frozen! For the first time I really, really acutely appreciate what the gulf stream does for us in the UK.

I'm not sure how I'm going to get in till I spot some sea-weed covered rocks with waves crashing into them. I clamber up then as the ocean pulls back I drop myself into the path of an oncoming wave. I let the wall of intense icy shock pull me into the sea and attempt to swim, but I find the ability to breath has left me as I gasp with cold.

I find I am back on the rock.. not remembering how I got out.. body shocked and unable to move as I hug to the dark stone for its vapid not-quite-heat. Maybe I've finally taken this 'must swim in every body of water I see' thing a little to far.

'I like Maine' I think.. 'hmm when the tour's over....'

Months later... Michias Maine

The Beehive Collective are Radical Artists & Eduactiors.. they are part of the Rising Tide North America Network, and I met them at the beginning of the Tour in Texas where they were down working on their next project. The Small town of Michais became my new home as I was warmly enveloped into this new family and took up residence in their tree-house.

As well as working internationally the Bees are involved in local community organising, and a few years back the Bees bought & rescued the old grange hall. Which is now restored and back as a community centre.

After a life of endless highways, strip malls, mountain top removal, posh universities, thundering trucks & Hummers I was soon charmed by Michias's hardy community. Life feels little more real - as people live there cos its beautiful, cheep and far from the rest of the US. For the first time since Texas I thought.. "I could stay here".

Much of my time was spent digging in gardens, being eaten my Mossies (Mosquitos for all the Americans!), eating good food, swimming in cold rivers, dressing up and working on my tour trainers pack.

I learnt a lot about globalisation and the devastation of mass infrastructure via the Bee's posters and got to join in the brainstorming process for a few little bits of their new eagerly awaited poster.. which is looking fantastic.

We went on a side mission up-to Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) where I met up with old housemates from Auckland, New Zealand for the Atlantica protests (oh I have SO many rants about tatics I wont even start right now..)

lurking in border towns

Then my final six weeks became a mammoth feat of logistics. as on hardly any cash I looked at all the great things going on and worked out what could sensibly do before I had to leave.. then ignored that and tried to go to everything anyway.

So it began..
an an epic 8,758 km 5,442 Miles roadtrip catching various rides across the States

It started with a crazy two day drive down the Atlanta Georgia for the US Social Forum. The USSF was a great experience, however Georgia, in the deep south, in July was not. Craziness - so hot you stagger from air-con to air-con.. not good!

I've never gone to any of the European Social Forums, having a bad impression from people it was all a bunch of privileged liberal NGO types and not very real. But the USSF was mainly organised by people of colour, and It was amazing ot go to vast plenaries where non of the (slightly a minority of) white folks got up and spoke at all. As a popular education nerd It was great to go to workshops run by Project South, a US based pop-ed collective.

Rising Tide ran a workshop on carbon trading (I did the pop-ed bits.. and ranted about geo-engineering) and people were engaged & entertained while learning stuff.. in a workshop on carbon trading! yay!

So.. another ride north to the The EF! Gathering in, also sweltering, Indianna. Followed a whirly couldn't-have-fantasised-about-it-better week of good friends, beautiful people, climbing workshops, intense conversations on the 'sate of the movement' sneeking off to cold springs and swimming a lake to cool down. One of the sillier 'actions' of the week being a 60 person strong naked flash mob of a Rising Tide meeting we were trying to have.. in a thunderstorm, ending up with us all swimming in the lake while lighting struck around us. Not the most sensible evening of my life.. but feck loads of fun! And there were thousands of flash-bugs (fireflies) everywhere that constantly had me wide eyed and excited like a kid in snow..

Hitting the road again in a friends truck for a crazy 30 hour non-stop ride to a place thats always grabbed my heart.. Arizona - to spend a few weeks at Black Mesa Sheepherding on the Navajo Reservation (its all about coal, again).. that will be the next blog!

Then an overnight bus to Santa Barbara to meet a friend and drive up the coast.. and to my surprise he picked me up in a pristine 70's VW Combie.. we travelled up Route 1 vis Big Sur in stye! It was like being on a proper holiday, playing in rivers and stuff, it was great!. A pit-stop in San-Fran - so what did I do with one night in one of my fave cities in the world? .. Sat in the back of an old mattress delivery van with no windows gossiping with an old friend.

Onwards! past the 'garlic capital of the world' (oh really - oh thats so American! - Self proclaimed world capital of everything...what about the French?)

Then up past the big trees of the west coast to Oregon to get ready for climate camp.. with brief adventure out to some hot springs in the forest (Lots of foresty pics).

So the only calendar item I dropped was Queeruption in Vancover.. only a few hours north - but thought it was better to stay and help with the camp, and was joined by some border rejects and we had a not-at-Queeruption-solidarity get together and became 'Brian's Angels'.. we found these costumes out on the street walking the dog!

Crazy bug found on the street in Atlanta (Rhinoceros Beetle - the strongest animal on the planet):

Many more pics on my flickr.

No comments: