Becoming the Mountain Dude

This is the nineteenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


My self-administered therapy is really the ongoing development of my own religion. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to set myself up as some guru, THE Mountain Dude, a wandering mystic in a modern day wilderness, healing people and proclaiming shit. I lay no claim on anyone. At least I try not to. One does fall into love or friendship now and then and tries to have some control. Some normalcy even. Partnership. But the God that I follow? He has a dark sense of humor. I’ve been granted a power that makes romance or close friendship near impossible. And the people immune from my ESP? I chase them away, getting too close too soon, pursuing as they flee, then pulling back in terror of maybe getting what I want. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat. Hilarious, right? Sad and hilarious.

Before I quit the normal world and started really wandering I tried some lonesome weekend experiments to decompress and get some space from people’s unrelenting thoughts and feelings. Here’s an example:

There was a large state park near my home in New England. It was a heavily wooded mountain park with marshy swales below and rocky ledges above. I got a topographical map of the place and pinpointed a spot right in the center. Then I started walking in concentric circles expanding outward from that central point. My idea was to know the whole mountain, every foot of it. I was into these circles because of this Navajo or Hopi maze image with circular pathways. I figured I would keep walking these expanding circles, no matter the terrain, until I hit someone’s backyard or a road or some kind of civilization. There was this other guy that wandered on that mountain too, a guy I saw a few times there and then once in Colorado. Weird. Once I heard him coming and lay under some brush as he passed inches from me. Another time I spoke to him. He was restless and preoccupied. Shit, I was restless and preoccupied too, but very focused on my project. Looking back now, I see a disturbed and restless soul through the wrong end of a telescope, a small distant figure not unlike an insect scrambling over rocks and through the bracken.

Looking at myself now, I still see a disturbed and restless soul. That could be my religion: The Church of the Disturbed and Restless Soul. All followers take to the road and keep encounters brief.

What did I discover walking my circles? No matter where you go, you’re always there. I emerged one sunny April Saturday onto a dirt road at the base of the mountain where a couple mountain bikers were resting in the shade.

“Hey,” I said. I must have looked rather haunted and scraggly. The concentric circles had taken their toll. I just stood there in front of them, waiting for my grade, my project complete.

“Dude,” one of them said with something like awe.

“Mountain dude,” said the other.

So, you see, you can’t out-walk your true self. But you can try and maybe strip some things away, leaving only the essence.

That’s the day I dropped my given name and became the Mountain Dude.

Fighting the Flow

This is the eighteenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


There was a time when I tried to control it, the ESP and my knee-jerk reactions. It takes so much effort. Fending it off shows on my expression like in a paranormal or superhero movie where there’s mind-striving with an unseen foe complete with facial contortions and beading forehead sweat. Have you and your friends ever made a whirlpool in a round swimming pool? Round and round, faster and faster. Then you turn against the flow and confront the force of the moving water? That’s what it’s like except there’s no slowing the current once you turn against it, at least until you or the subject move out of range. But fighting the flow for even a brief moment is like struggling against some elemental law like gravity or magnetism, something impersonal and beyond mere human strength.

In my early twenties I worked with a Paranormalologist (she couldn’t legally call herself a psychologist) on controlling the flow of ESP. Dr.(?) Ziing would bring her colleagues in to test my progress. “Swim!” she hissed at me as their fears and hopes and disappointments would rush at me, images forming, shimmering and fragmenting like on an old antenna tv screen as I pushed back against the force. “Swim upstream!” I practiced backing or turning away politely instead of stumbling backwards with flailing arms, the idea being to achieve a certain level of social grace. Dr. Ziing was big on social grace.

Here are a couple typical snapshots from that stage of me trying to fit in:

I’m at a party in college. My roommate approaches to introduce a cute female friend from back home. He’s trying to help me out.  The flow from her surges and approaches like a rolling wave ready to crest and I swim against it, a grimacing smile plastered on my face as I back away.

“What’s wrong?” she says. “Am I bleeding or something?” She reaches up to her head looking for the jagged wound that my expression of strained control seemed to indicate. Finding nothing but her intact and pretty face, she looks down at her clothes because surely there must be dog feces or something smeared all over her to explain my backpedaling and corpse-like smile. Finding nothing amiss she looks at my friend and shakes her head and walks away muttering.

“Nice try,” my friend says. “But I don’t think you’re going home with her tonight.”

It did get better with practice. About a year later I go to a job interview and sit down across from the HR guy. At this point, I’m able to fend off the flow and sit across from him through the whole interview while succumbing to no images or insights. A major step forward.

He only asks three times if I need the bathroom. Says I look uncomfortable. Like I’m holding something in.

I didn’t get the job.

Eventually I stopped trying. It was too hard and I couldn’t not react to the images and feelings that I got from people. I would say things, often advice or observations that hit too close to the mark, going from my brain to my voice before I even noticed. People got startled. Or scared. They got angry. They cried. They shook their heads and muttered and walked away.

So I walked away too. Into the woods, into the mountains. I started doing my own therapy.

Winter’s Coming

This is the seventeenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


Cast out. Admittedly deserved. Sven drove me all the way down the canyon so I didn’t have to hitchhike, thereby depriving me of an angry aggrieved retreat and leaving me in his debt forever. The conniving bastard.

“I know this was bad,” he said as I got out in a supermarket parking lot. “But I wish I could’ve got to know you.”

“Please,” I said. “Let me walk away without a hug.”

“Just so you know. I do love her.”

“Well, good luck.”

It was cold as I shouldered my pack and headed into the market to get some supplies. After the rain it turned clear and dry and cold. My plan was to head west and south. Southwest. To the canyon country.

Maybe I could even shake off pursuit. Like a desperado.

In the store, I located the granola and dried apricots and almonds and jerky. My traveling food. I grabbed a fat bottle of red PowerAde because the color made my mouth water. I felt mean and wretched. It came to me then, a voice in my head. From God? My mother?

“Stop being a dick,” the voice said.

And I realized again why I live the way I do. That two nights at Kat’s cabin with her and Sven? That’s how it always goes when I get too close. I become a dick. The Dick. It just floweth from me, the dickishness. As long as I can remember. I want what I want when I want it. I expect things to be a certain way. They never are. Never. So I act out, trying to leave a mark. The ESP doesn’t help. The people I can’t read, like Kat, I pursue and cling to until they tell me to go the fuck away. I run them to ground. Then they turn and fight me off. The ones I can read, they’re easy. I can avoid or engage or provoke or comfort so easily. It’s the ones I can’t read that give me all the trouble. This ESP, this dubious power. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

This cycle of thinking is running through my head for the thousandth, ten thousandth, hundred thousandth time.

And, “Stop being a dick!” from somewhere higher and deeper then the thoughts in my head. “Just stop!”

“Can I help you?” the cashier asked. She was a short lovely blonde, just plain and plumpish and lovely and sad, in her early twenties. I approached and got a big blast of a disappointed life, images of a college quad with hurrying students, a beaten-down car driving away, and an overweight mother in a trailer who forgot how to smile.

“Listen,” I said. “I know you think you’re helping. But it’s out of your hands. You’re powerless. Please go and live your life.”

She stared at me and the tears welled. “I can’t,” she whispered. “She won’t let me.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “You can’t go anywhere and I can’t stay anywhere. I guess just do the best you can.”

She sniffled and started scanning my items. “Isn’t that what we all do.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But it never feels like enough.”

“If you’re not broken, you’re not trying”

This is the sixteenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


The reason I stayed two nights and not one or three is that we all got along on the first night and we didn’t get along the second day. The reason we didn’t get along on the second day is that I was an asshole. The reason I was an asshole was that I used my ESP on Sven and discovered he was a decent loving person. I got images of a man rowing a boat over placid waters, a bunch of roses in his lap for someone he loved. Kat. He loved Kat.

God how I hated him.

There is nothing worse than feeling like a wretched outsider and encountering a loving and generous heart who has taken your mountain girl away. I really was grateful and appreciative that first night. But then my inner Destructor got going.

He was cooking a frittata and I hated him for that. What the hell’s wrong with scrambled eggs?

“What the hell’s wrong with scrambled eggs?”


“I mean, a frittata? What the hell’s a frittata?” I gave him my best deadpan vacuous face, basically my natural resting face, and he couldn’t tell if I was serious or pulling his chain.

But Kat could tell.

“You’re going to come in here and start shitting on us?”

I pointed at Sven. “He’s not wounded!”

“What? So what?”

“That’s suspicious,” I said.

“Not everyone is haunted,” she said. “Not everyone is broken and lost.”

“If you’re not broken,” I said. “You’re not trying.”

“This frittata is ready,” Sven said. “Try some. It will make you feel better.” He approached with two plates and he actually had a an apron on. An apron with a picture of a moose!

It smelled really good. It tasted really good, light yet substantial and savory.

It did not make me feel better.

            Later that afternoon we walked up the mountain a ways. I really wanted to get closer to Kat and at least find out if I should bother ever coming back. But Sven was always there. It seemed that Kat made sure that he was always there, that we were never alone. Even when Sven went off to take a leak behind a tree, I turned to talk to Kat and she had wandered off. We hiked up to this outcropping of rocks with a good view of the canyon below. It was still cloudy and misty but not raining anymore.

“We might as well have this out now,” I said. “Do we have a future or no?”

Kat looked at Sven who looked at her. Then they both looked at me.

“No,” Kat said. “Since we’re being blunt.”

“Listen…”, Sven said.

“No, I get it.” There were tears in my eyes. The view, the travel, the wandering. The denial of a safe homey harbor. “I did this. I get it.”

“That’s the problem with you! It all about you! You didn’t do this or not do this! Me and Sven are doing this!”


“Hey, listen…”, Sven said.

“You just show up and I’m supposed to be waiting for you? Fuck that! I’m not waiting for anyone.”

“I can see you’re angry.”

“You wander around and you think like that’s honorable or something. Like you’re fucking dignified or something. That’s fine. But don’t expect me or anyone to love you for it!”

“Ok, I got it.”

“You got it? Good.   Then get out of here!”

“Well let’s just walk down,” Sven said. “And see how we feel.”

We didn’t feel any better after walking down.

I slept on the porch that night.

The next morning, Sven drove me to town.

Escape Dunes

This is the ninth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


When driving on the Medano Pass Primitive Road (four-wheel drive), the Escape Dunes and Ghost Forest can be viewed approximately 1/2 mile up the road. Here, shifting sands have crossed Medano Creek to form new dunes. The “escape” dunes create “ghost forests” where trees die through suffocation and starvation.

So I’ve heard that question a lot. “Can you control it?” The short answer is, “sometimes”. Sometimes I can batten the hatches against before the spigot flow starts. But it takes vigilance and conscious effort. Once the flow starts, it can’t be stopped except by moving away from the source. At least I haven’t found another way.

That’s why I keep moving.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

It doesn’t happen with everyone. Some people are closed to me, thankfully. I saw this therapist once. He tried to believe me. He listened and nodded and tapped his pen against his lower lip. When I finished, he leaned forward and said, “Man is the God who shits.”


“Think about it,” he said.

I’ve certainly thought about it over the years, especially after shitting all over someone or being shat upon by life. But it came up again when I walked up into the mountains, away from the main dune field, and came upon an area of escape dunes and the resulting ghost forest. There was a photographer up here, tripod and all, and I sat in the sand and watched him. He was a restless middle-aged fellow, fidgety with his camera gadgets, worried about the sand getting into his various apertures. He had a remote shutter release and he was setting up for a shot down to the dune field from up here in the escape dunes. It was getting late and soon the dunes would explode into an orange umber blaze as the surrounding foothills grew dark. I’ve seen this happen and it’s captured in my mind, this image of something as close to the divine as anything is likely to get.

I approached the photographer cautiously. No ESP flow from this dude. At least not yet.


“I was wondering if you would walk over,” he said. “You live out here?”

“For a few days.”

“Well I’m torn about that. I envy you, of course, being out here away from all the…all the…”


“Worse than bullshit,” he said. “Vitriol. Hate.”

“Sounds about right.”

“But then you also must miss a lot. I mean, most people are still good.”


He finished some final adjustment and made sure the cord for the remote shutter release wasn’t tangled and he stood next to me looking out over the dune field. A few minutes maybe until sunset.

“My wife thinks I’m crazy coming out here all over creation to get pictures of beauty. I suppose some people fish or hunt and they feel this way, but I don’t want to hurt any animals. I need to be out here or out there or wherever. I feel like I hunt this natural beauty. It’s always available. And it’s free.”

“For now,” I said.

“We can create so much. We’re freer than we think. We can move around and think and try to love.”

“But we succumb.”

“Yup,” he said. “We succumb. By commission or omission, we still succumb.”

“Man is the God who shits,” I said.

“That’s pretty pungent. But I know what you mean.”

We watched as it grew dark around us up here in the ghost forest. The dune sea blazed into coral and a fine haze in the air gave everything a dreamy feel. He pushed the button and the camera clicked.