Tag Archives: religion

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.

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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.

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JJ in the 21st Century: (1989) JJ and Lila and the Shaky Promise of Spring

There was a man across the street, too old for college, too young to be old, playing hymns on a trumpet. One foot was up on his trumpet case, which was emblazoned (branded?) with a white cross. He faced the road, playing for the cars rather than people on foot. No virtuoso, he let the spirit move him, playing loud and proud.

“Why would someone do that,” JJ asked.

“He believes what he believes,” Lila said.

“But what does he believe?”

“That college is sin? That sinning is part of college?”

“I feel like sinning right now.”

She looked at him looking at her and smiled. “Later. We’ll sin together.”

“Then we’ll hear an orchestra.”

They sat on a bench, drinking hot chocolate from the dairy bar. A fickle day in early Spring, clouds and sun, cool and warm, snow finally melted, no leaves, no flowers yet, sand and mud everywhere. A time of year with possibilities and promise, yet stained with the gritty sediment of the barren winter just passed, a winter that would come again. JJ’s time to shine.

“Do you ever think about us?”

“JJ, why do you want to go there?”

He looked at the grass, knowing she didn’t care to delve into the meanings and the worry. And she definitely didn’t want to hear about his jealousy.

“What’s that guy’s name? The one you’re writing the play with?”

An exaggerated sigh. “His name’s Evan. And we don’t ever work on the play. We just fuck and talk about you.”

“I knew it,” JJ said and smiled a smile that didn’t reach his eyes or heart. He knew she was joking. He wanted to believe she was teasing him. But, the fact that she would tease him at all…

“Can I be in the play?”

Lila sighed. She thought she loved this guy. They’d been together four months and it was real and deep, not like with other guys, who were just surface bullshit and image and posturing and watching sports. JJ didn’t even have a TV. “I get all my entertainment right up here,” he liked to say with a crooked smile, pointing at his head. That was the problem, though. He spent too much time up in that head, weaving problems and seeing patterns that didn’t exist. She knew she brought some light, some lightness of being, to him. But it was a struggle sometimes.

“You can’t be in the play, JJ. And I don’t want to be with anyone but you. Don’t ask again or you’ll get nothing tonight. No orchestra, no banjo, no nothing.”

JJ smiled. “I like it when you’re bossy.” Then he frowned. “What does that say about me?”

“JJ, I mean it…”

“Kidding!” He laughed and got up, pulling her up with him. They walked down the hill, away from the road, away from the trumpeter. The sound followed them down the hill. Onward Christian Soldiers was replaced by Ode to Joy and, on cue, a warm sun came out from behind the clouds. All seasons in a day here in New England. JJ took Lila’s hand and they walked into what comes next.

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