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By the Gates of the Garden of Eden
By the Gates of the Garden of Eden
by Pauly Hart
I will say this about canned pork and beans: I do not like them, nor do I understand anyone who does. Craig Atherton, my roommate enjoyed them immensely, which proved to be one of the reasons that I decided on the course of events that would change my life forever. The month of May was almost over and I needed something to do with myself for the next few months, and although it was a tempting choice for the summer, I really did not look forward to sitting around in my dorm room watching Craig become fatter than he was already becoming. I was laying in bed, reading some random book I had picked up from the flea-market about fifth century Roman coinage, and not remembering a word of it. My Converse shoes lay by my feet where I had kicked them off next to my flannel shirt. I still wore flannels, even in the spring. It was habit, something I had picked up in high-school. Without them, I resembled something of a scare-crow, no matter what T-shirt I was wearing. Most of my clothes I had bought from the Salvation Army discount store. Not that I was poor, I would just rather spend my money on books. It was amazing what you could get there for a dollar or less.
The dorm that I lived in was for graduates, but I moved in last year during the summer, and they somehow had overlooked the fact that I was still in my fourth year and had not obtained any bachelors degree yet. This was fine with me, but that did lend itself to the one issue that was now my largest concern. Creepy Craig. Not that he was really terrible in any way. It was just the one hundred little things that overwhelmed the average roommate.
I was roommate number sixteen for Craig. As he had only been here two years in his graduate studies, that was a terrible track record. It was things in the bathroom like his woman's hair-brush that he used to "Do the Doo." It was the never-clean desk that would one day become miraculously clean "when I just got the time, you know?" It was the ratty brown slippers that were "worn in just right." It was the afternoon Stetson cologne mist-bath that "kept him fresh." It was the alarm clock that screamed: "Up and at em, eggs and bacon!" It was his mother that dropped by every week to check on "darling boy." It was the toothbrush splatter on the mirror. It was the large pile of clothes that had developed its own ecosystem. It was the used styrofoam ramen noodle cups laying everywhere. It was the way that he referred to all women as "dolls." It was his gerbil Murphy who made odd screeching noises at four in the morning. It was the screen saver on his computer that was had pictures of his childhood with Honorable Mention awards. It was the Soap-on-a-rope that hung from the shower-head. It was everything Craig. It was just Craig in general.
So, as his roommate for longer than six months, I had set the all-time record for tolerance, even if it strained the limits on my own sanity. There was a level of respect, especially at our seminary, for a man with a larger than normal gift of patience, or, as the King James Version calls it: "Long-suffering." Maybe this was why I was never asked to leave the Grad dorm. They had grown tired of roommate flipping and decided to expand their tendrils to a larger audience, for somewhere in the bylaws of the founding sponsor of the dorm, it was written that no one would ever have a room to themselves: for fear of the temptations that so easily beset young men. Craig was enough to drive me bonkers, but as I am fond of saying: "I'm still not crazy, so everything must be fine."
Craig had been away on Christmas vacation when I was assigned to the room. When I showed up, I chose to spend Christmas catching up on schoolwork, ready to finally graduate this year and move on to larger things. When I had arrived at the beginning of January, the room was pungent with the grit of an old kitchen towel and smelt the way I had imagined Oscar the Grouch would have, growing up watching Sesame Street on television. Craig had left presumably mid-meal and there was what looked like a crustacean alive on his desk that at one time had been the number four meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It had taken a full roll of trash-bags, a gallon of bleach, a stack of hand-towels and seven hours of hard labor to clean the bathroom and the half that was to become my half of the "inner sanctum," as Craig called it.
On my second day after cleaning, I went to the supermarket, purchased a label maker and some duct-tape and neatly labeled all of the shelves in the bedroom that I was confiscating and placed the tape down the center of the room for an equatable portion. The "This is my half, that is your half," solution. The Craiganator had arrived the very next day, blinked twice at the changes, set down his backpack on my bed (right next to me thank you very much) and practically fell into the restroom for an apparently much needed and long overdue bowel movement. Without hesitation, I took his backpack, opened the window to the frozen air, and threw it out into the snow. Upon finishing his due course of events, Craig quickly came to respect my space after that, for we lived on the third floor, and unbeknownst to me, I had "damaged some goods." That dirty clothes (including his Dragon Ball Z pajamas) could be damaged by falling thirty feet onto the fluffy white pillow of a snow drift was new to me. I had some "learnin" to do, as Craig put it.
And so it was, that with the advent of summer, I had decided to have a Craig-free time in my life. If I planned to finished up my degree and pursue either a career or another more advanced degree, I would make plans to do so with a clear head. No Craig. No worries. Just myself on the open road, going down the old historic Route 66, through the heart of the Midwest and into California. Thus, I went over to the Zip-N-Go two streets over, bought a Map of The United States of America (Old Route 66 Edition) and charted my course to travel to the West Coast.
Starting in my city of origin, Boston, hopping up to Chicago (where the Route started), going through the great Midwest and landing in Santa Monica. I do not know why I decided on this course of action, but it was natural to me to make it this way... Santa Monica that is. It just seemed right. It felt like something that should be done, at least once, by every person who calls themselves an American and who is out searching for themselves. At least It was something that I could do. And as I did have an entire three months at my disposal, I did not feel the need to hurry... I would enjoy this trip for the trip itself.
There was only one small problem: I did not have the resources or panache to own a car at this point in my life. The priorities weren't there. I would rather own a little and read a lot and work just hard enough to get by. Even as a teenager, most afternoons would find me sitting out in the back yard reading Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, or even Huck Finn instead of working. I had never needed a car in my youth, or rather, had always made excuses to go read. Even here at college, it had been easy for me to get around by walking hither and yon... To and from the bookstore, work and the dorm. Walking coupled with laziness was natural, and therefore I felt this was how I was to begin my journey. By walking.
Most of the way at least.
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