His name is John.
His cardboard sign reads, “Birmingham.”
John stands about 5’11 and weighs 160, soaking wet.
His footwear is Carhartt Workboots. People swear that Carhartt Workboots are the best. This shows that he is very conscientious about his feet.
He wears an Army Green long sleeve button-up shirt.
His pants match the shirt.
His face is weather-beaten.
His hair is light brown and straight. It falls past his shoulders.
The top of his head is thinning.
John is 63 years old.

I paid for John’s time.
It cost me one pack of Camel Cigarettes and a bottle of water.
I asked if I could sit and talk with him.

He tells me he is a writer. He’s even got books published. All under a Pen Name, though. He doesn’t tell me the Pen Name, and I decide not to ask.
He has all of his monies direct deposited into a well-known bank in the southeastern part of the US. He has a debit card.
He doesn’t want for anything.
The earth is his home.

John tells me that he is on his way to Mobile, Alabama, and then Louisianna.
He has no wife, no kids, no-nothing to tie him down.
He keeps a bag with him that contains other clothes and toiletries.
He says he has clothing for nice sit-down restaurants and “regular” clothes for “regular stuff” in his bag.

He pulls out three, completely filled, college-ruled notebooks. You know the kind—the ones you had to buy each year for High School.

“These are my daily Journals that are already full.”

He then pulled out a fourth notebook.
“This is the one I’m on now.”

I met John at an odd time. Odd to me, at least.

You see, “John Steinbeck,” the writer of many Great American Classics such as “Of Mice and Men,” in the early ’60s, bought a truck with a camper and took a Road-Trip across America. He took his dog “Charlie” with him. He did this incognito.

In his camper were two bunks, a fridge, a stove, a toilet, and a table to sit at.
It was a pretty Snazzy truck for the ’60s.
He met and talked with as many people as he could.
He even entertained in his camper.

After his trip was complete, he wrote a book about it.
A book I just finished reading called, “Travels with Charlie: In Search of America.”
And the very next day, after reading that book, I came upon “John.” Who seems to be doing the same thing. Only without the vehicle. He’s hitching.

John shows me things in his bag and on his person that proves, to me at least, that he is not a Vagrant.
A Vagrant is a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging.

While it could be said that John is wandering from place to place, he is in no way “Begging.” At least not for money or food or drink.
He didn’t ask for the pack of cigarettes or the bottle of water that I gave him.
I gave him those things as a “Peace Offering.” —To get him to talk to me.

He tells me about his four sisters living in Florida.
He tells me of his father, who died of a heart attack. His mother died of a heart attack as well.
And because both of John’s parents died of heart attacks, John is a vegetarian.
Not hardcore. He will eat meat now and then when he has no other choice.
In fact, he was eating a Fried Pork Chop when I came up to him.

“The south is full of Fried Porkchops,” John says.
“They even leave the bone in,” he says while laughing.

I added, “They go great on a sandwich too. Mayonaisse, Sweet Onion, Mmm-mmm.”

He then tells me that he will have to eat four bowls of Oatmeal to cleanse the meat out of his system.
He pulls the large box of Oatmeal out of his bag and shows it to me.

“Four bowls. Just to cleanse this ‘pork chop’ outta me.”

I smile. “I add butter and sugar to my oatmeal.”

John replies, “You’ll become diabetic doing that.”

I nod and smile in agreement. After all, I am a diabetic, and he is right.

“I’m on a mission,” John tells me.

“What’s the mission?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Only God knows. I go wherever my heart feels it needs to be.”

“How long is this mission going to take?” I ask.

“The rest of my life,” John says seriously. “And I aim to live a long life, too,” he adds.

“I’m going to stay with friends in Birmingham. I’m going to stay with friends in Mobile as well.” He says. “It’s the ‘in betweens’ where I have to improvise. Sometimes stay at a cheap motel. Sometimes out in the woods along the interstate.”

He asks, “How many miles to Birmingham from right here?”

“Well, I know from my travels that it is about thirty-two miles from here to ‘Malfunction-Junction,’ which will put you in Birmingham. I don’t know which part you’re going to, though.”

“I don’t know either. Just have my friend’s number to call when I get down there.”

“Do you ever hop trains to get where you’re going?” I ask.

“The last train I hopped was in Boston. As a kid, we’d hop on the train to get to the swimming pool. Then, we’d hop the train to get back home.”

I found John to be very strong in his belief in the Lord.

He attended Catholic School growing up.
He also said he graduated from Old Dominion University.

“I lived in Virginia for several years, too,” I said.

“Where at?” John asks.

“Harrisonburg, Virginia,” I reply.

“Oh. I know where that is. Nice.”

Looking at my watch, I knew I had to get going. Although, I could have stayed and talked with John for another hour.

“Well, I wish I was going your way, but I’m not.”
Then, I bid him farewell and safe travels.

We shook hands, and John’s last words to me were, “God always takes care of me.”


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