THE PORT

Trip Start Jan 31, 2007
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Trip End Feb 25, 2008


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Flag of United States  , Maryland
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

So, I left Michigan in mid-January.

My former college roommate, a 6'8" guy, cooked us homemade biscuits when I got off my cross-country bus in family-friendly Roanoke, Virginia, a town whose homes mostly had Southern porches. My friend's four-year-old son, Matthew, a tough but friendly blue-eyed fellow, swung his heavy head around; his favorite activity was wrestling plastic animals or tackling kids twice his age. My friend's eighteen-month-old daughter, Ryann, refused to pay any attention to the television; instead, she felt her way around the house, climbing on things like a mountain goat, licking her snotty lips mischievously, checking with happy eyes to make sure Mom wasn't going to scold her, and, with blond hair sticking up, yelling, "It's to'ing!" (It's snowing!) at the window.

From there, I went to Baltimore to hang out with people my own age. My former fellow cross-Canada hitchhikers, Lucas "Johnny" Seipp-Williams and Adam Rohr, and I had a blast. Along with Johnny's fun roommates, who, like he were in the alternative health field, we salsa-danced, danced to the region's "jam bands", wrestled a lot, and played "Oh, hell!" (a card game). Another good "Act of Spontaneous Ecstasy" came when I sat beside the Baltimore Harbour and meditated, by watching the falling snow.

Far from the pretty, touristy Balimore Harbour was the Port of Baltimore. I had business there, too: I was headed overseas to travel, but I didn't want to fly.

Firstly, commercial flying seems wasteful and elitist. An unreliable source once told me that a commercial flight, per passenger, creates as much pollution as a year, or several years, of car-driving. And, I 've already flown more times in my life than the average world citizen.

Secondly, commercial flying is degrading to a human being. You have to wait in a bunch of lines, like cattle. You get prodded and poked and peered at distrustingly, in the name of security. Airports are culture-less and ugly. And most airport employees, having grown accustomed to brief encounters with needy customers, aren't fun to be around. Many fellow flyers are pompous and dull.

So, I wanted to try to hitchhike on a steamship across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, this was something I wouldn't succeed in.

"Johnny" Seipp-Williams dropped me off at the port one day. Most people entered the port in semi-trucks or cars, and they passed a lady at the gate. I figured my best bet would be to walk in un-detected. But, the lady at the gate detected me. They usually do. That's their job.

I was told that, due to post-9/11 security issues, pedestrians were no longer free to enter U.S. ports. In the past, I would've been able to. This was a major setback to my chances of hitching on a boat. I had wanted to enter the port so I could talk to the captains, who might be willing to take me on-board - in exchange for work, even.

For several hours, I tried visiting other ports, visiting steamship corporate offices, and visiting port security offices. These other ports didn't let me enter. The steamship corporations had no interest in letting me on their ships. The port security wasn't going to give me permission to enter, since what I wanted to do would be seen as "stowing away" by them.

This was all very disappointing. It would seem that a large boat could take on an extra passenger, and the consequences would only be good consequences! It would seem that dreams and freedom would have a place in the port, too.

I now think the best ways to get on a boat would be: 1. Sneak into a port as a passenger in a vehicle that's going in, then speak to the ship captains; or 2. Write letters to steamship companies giving them plenty of time to arrange for your passage on a ship.

... So, in the end, I had to fly across the Atlantic this time.

My toothpaste got confiscated because it weighed more than 3.7 ounces, and therefore presented a security risk.

During a layover in the Netherlands, an airport employee spoke to me in a way that sounded like she would've liked to rub the bottom of her shoe on my face.

The one good thing that happened was that I met Johnson, from Kenya, a thirty-year-old man with a bright smile and friendly desire to talk. We spoke about a lot of things in a short amount of time. He was a clerk for the United Nations Development Programme, and he hoped to eventually be an African politician who gets things done.

And then, we arrived. It had taken a lot less time than a boat!

- peace and freedom,

Modern Oddyseus.

Much thanks to Ewan "Johnny" Smith, Kerry, Matthew, & Ryann; and Lucas "Johnny" Seipp-Williams, Maya, Zeke, & Josh for places to stay!
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