a day of traveling and not a dime for airfare

I did something yesterday I’ve not done in a good while. Rather, more precisely, ever.

I pass on the worn pink zories and lace up the Doc Martens and snap on the backpack and venture out to discover my new neighborhood on foot.

Traveling with a backpack on, even if just down the road, is the most natural feeling in the world to me. It's where I'm at my happiest. It's invigorating and healing to be in travel mode.

Plus I sorely need to get out of the house, where I’ve been enmeshed in depression and anxiety and melded to a computer in a job hunt. I need sun and motion. And it's a perfect day for it, a day of sunshine and blue skies where light and shadow meet in harmonious balance, though the equinox is still yet ahead.

My only destinations are the library and a New Age store in the industrial part across town. How I will get there is the unwritten page, the adventure.

First stop is the divey Malarkey’s billiards pub. Where two bucks buys a tall boy of Pabst and a conversation with a fellow Piscean about astrology. A good time.

On to McCormick Park, a patch of flora and fountain that offers oasis to downtown employees during the week.

But today the streets are vacated and the only guests are two scruffy gents and a squirrel who approaches brazenly close to where I'm standing.

Just as I'm preparing to stomp my foot to dispatch him, he snatches his peachy prey and scampers off faster than my cell-phone can capture.

He settles in with ferocious nibbles of his peach before discarding it half-eaten to sniff out any edibles buried in the soil.

Exiting, I pass the two gents seated on a bench. Having noticed that one smokes, I've got two hand-rolleds at the ready, one for each. I extend one to the first fellow, who accepts with a surprised thank you; the other turns it down, which isn't altogether unexpected since since he's wearing one of those health masks. His loss is his buddy's gain.

Destination: library. I own the streets and take in Tacoma's realness and authenticity. Marvel at the town's reinvention of self, with none of the pretentiousness of (nearby) Seattle. This fascinates. This town has courage to change. Really change. It is a reminder of what I too need to do.

It is a town of juxtapositions, where old meets new, and modern meshes with history in an unlikely pairing.

Construction sites and cranes remind that this is a town in motion that is seeking better for itself; the old buildings remind that history is respected, even adored. Whatever the transformation, it still remains a town of spirit and grit.

At the library for a book on Brancusi. The library's not in the best neighborhood; it is pockmarked by transients, drug users and riffraff, so library security cannot go unnoticed by even the sleepiest eye.

Bags and backpacks are not permitted in the restrooms; they must be left with the guard at the table who sits reading a book to pass the boredom until his next scheduled rounds.

On the wall inside an announcement cites a new policy that allows more than one patron in at a time and so please cooperate and uphold standards of cleanliness and safety.

Above the sinks notes state that bathing and such is prohibited. Inside the stalls are these dropoff boxes that also serve to remind where the library's been and where it's heading:

Like I said, not the best neighborhood. I appreciate and applaud the efforts to clean up restore the facility to one of safety, education, enlightenment and enjoyment for all.

Down the slope past US Bank.

Whenever I see this bank, I'm reminded of the account with them I once had and when I closed it, they slapped on a fee for the cashier's check. A fee to retrieve my own money!

When I cried foul, they retracted it. I followed up with a polite letter to the manager questioning the policy. Never received a response or even a nod of acknowledgment so in the years since I continue to take my banking elsewhere. P.S. Customer service is only as bad as customers accept.

The journey takes me past the blazing blue Bone-Dry Shoe factory, now evidently office space, the Melting Pot fondue restaurant for those with money; one potential customer perusing the menu outside could be heard exclaiming : "Why is it so expensive?!"  and right next to that is the oily Mullan's Collision shop, with half a dozen international flags painted on its exterior wall.

To the gun shop and indoor shooting range where I overhear the pop pop pop of practices, peruse rifles and handle a few pistols, old and new, extracted from their locked glass case just because I enjoy it.

To the New Age shop just up the road where I then handle gemstones, browse books and breathe in the pale scents of incense.

Evening is dropping hints of imminent arrival so I make my way back.

Through the parking lot beneath the overpass where transient types are being entertained by a band playing a (very) homemade version of the classic old tune "Spirit in the Sky" by Norma Greenbaum.

Past the fondue shop and the historic Union Station, now the courthouse. The glass doors are locked but a peek-in reveals grandeur and marble floors and solid fixtures from days of yore. I vow to return.

How many travelers have come and gone through these old doors?

One remains permanently. Where's he headed? Where would he go if you could? What brings him to town?

I see out his eyes.

Which of these two roads marked by black arrows would he take? The one that curves to the left? Or the one straight ahead?

Perhaps he'd take neither. Perhaps head the opposite, unmarked direction. Perhaps wrap his hands around weathered leather straps on paisley-print bags and board the next train to anywhere else. Or to destination specific.

I reckon that of all the strangers met on the day's adventure, he's the one I like the most, or better to say have the most in common with.

I turn my back to him to leave with a twinge of odd sadness but not before sending him parting thoughts. I can't help wondering where it was he was going and how the roads rose up to meet him, the permanent traveler.

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