Naked in the Rain
I’ve been making my way east on interstate ten and then north on the seventeen. I had planned to visit St. Augustine but missed the turn off. I had been on the road for a few days at this point and felt like taking a motel. Somewhere between Jacksonville Florida and the border of Georgia I find one in a quiet space that is not too expensive. I ask the concierge for a restaurant recommendation and she tells me there is a Denny’s across that street. That won’t do but I pretend like it does. My room is reserved on the second floor and outside there are two parked state trooper vehicles. Immediately I feel like I am breaking the law. I have plans on poking holes in a pop can later to smoke what’s left of the grass I bought back in New Orleans. I carry my things upstairs, including my the bass guitar, hoping no one sees me.
Inside I close all drapes and turn the A/C and TV on. I jump in bed and marvel at the amenities available here compared to the hostels and couches I’ve become regular to. The room is quite large and has a mini fridge. The sink area has two sinks with a mirror above them that stretch from wall to wall. Next to that is the bathroom. It has a fan and I make a mental note of that.
I check google to see if there is any other food options about. I find a place called Lindy’s Fried Chicken which has good reviews. It’s not far but my stress level is high and I figure for sure I will get lost. I leave the hotel in search of chicken and immediately take a wrong turn while leaving the hotel. It takes me a few minutes to notice this and I make a nervous u-turn to get back on track. Lindy’s was not far. I am there in about five minutes. Outside there is a convenience store and liquor store. The whole complex is very empty except one person stands outside smoking what looks like a wet cigarette.
Inside Lindy’s is empty. I assume the woman working at the desk is called Lindy but I never ask. She asks me what I want and I have no idea. I ask for a recommendation and she tells me they serve fried chicken. Oh good that's what I want. I get confused about how to order. I pray that I get through this properly. I end up with a few pieces of fried chicken with slaw and beans. She uses a microphone to place the order to the back which I find hilarious. No one was there except for us.
Back at the hotel I eat my fried chicken, have some drinks, and watch family guy on TV. Every once in a while I peer out the curtains to check if the police are still there. They are but I can't tell if they are in the car or not. I wonder if they can see the curtain moving every once and while to check on them. I doubt they can. My paranoia is usually wrong. I pass back and forth in the hotel eating chicken and sipping drinks while mulling over plans to smoke. The fan, the bathroom, the fan the bathroom. My gut continues to convince me it's a good idea while my mind goes into psychopathic outcomes that get me deported for life. I end up smoking in the bathroom with ease and afterwards I slap my bass around a bit.
My next destination is Savannah Georgia. I plot a course there with google and also do a search for hostels in the area. The closest one I can find is called Hostel in the Forest which is located about one and a half hours south of Savannah. I read about the place and become lush with excitement. The tree house cabins have me sold. I send news of this exotic place to a friend of mine who says it looks nice but also expensive. I send back news that the place is very affordable. For thirty dollars a night one gets a bunk and a special made dinner every night. My excitement numbs the pain in my back. I load the car with my provisions, a bass guitar and candy, then head north on the 95. After a few hours I turn left on highway 82 to go east.
I enter the hostels dirt path driveway and immediately begin to wonder what I got myself into. The place seems secluded and I start to feel like “not one of them.”. I regard this as a feeling that haunts me everywhere and disband it. The driveway winds and bumps and potholes on an elevated dirt road surrounded by swamping woods full of lush greenery and tall trees. Eventually I find the parking lot. On foot I take the rest of the road and finally see one of the tree houses elevated about twelve feet off the ground on stilts. There is a staircase on that leading up to the middle of the floor to the octagonal shaped room. The roof is thatched well and the walls are comprised of netted windows so a dweller would have a view of the forest in every direction.
Not far from this welcoming tree house dwelling is the main area. I meet a long haired bare footed scooby doo t-shirt wearing friend there named Jonathan. He is giving a tour to a few women and asks me to wait so that I can be checked in. I enter the main lodge through a mosquito meshed window door frame. It is of old wood, dry and light, quiet to close with a mild thud when the two wooden frames meet. I sit on a futon type couch in the waiting area. The reception desk looks like it was carved out of an old tree. It is entered from the back behind a curtain and inside there is a computer and desk where the concierge work. They handle guests through a window overlooking the couch where I sit. Jonathan enters there and we do a routine check in.
After payment Jonathan gives me a quick tour. He explains a bit about the hostel creator Tom who is also a writer. There is a copy of the story of the hostels creation, which came to be in 1975, available for all to read. Behind the false tree shaped reception area is the kitchen. Jonathan explains how the grey water works and also how breakfast, dinner and coffee go. We exit from the kitchen to tour the dining area which is about forty by twenty feet. There are large picnic tables here carved from logs as well as a pool table, a reading area with a couch and a table tennis. Behind these buildings are a shower area which is very visible and jonathan calls ‘the most secluded shower’, maybe jokingly, as well as a few buildings which are dorms, a fire pit, a path that leads to the lake and another that leads to the labyrinth. There is also a chicken coop. Chickens roam free here and every night the staff corral them back to their pens.
Jonathan explains the route to my cabin. He also explains the route to the lake, the glass house, the labyrinth, and, shows me the library which is right next to the main office.
The library is beautiful. It is of a geodome construction and maybe forty feet in diameter. It is filled with books organized by genre. There are guitars, amps, a stove and seating areas. I note the guitar and amp as a hopeful place to hide. I tell Jonathan that I saw the cabin he verbally guided me to on my way in and I would have no trouble finding it. Thinking back I wonder how many times I have fooled myself saying I would have no trouble finding something.
I climb the stairs at the bottom of the cabin that I assume is mine and push one half of the trap doors open. Inside I remark on the cleverness of the rope work that keep the trap doors from banging on the floor once opened. Inside the doors can be opened by the rope pulley system. It really is fantastic. My whole view is open to me as explained by the mesh type windows. The bed is a double and the only one in this cabin. The walls are painted with lovely characters of maidens and soothing colors of night sky. There is a kama sutra book on an end table and candles sit everywhere. “Damn, I really lucked out with this room!” A feeling of romance washes over me.
I decide to take a little tour and use the rope pulleys to open the trap door. I step down the ladder and take a turn to go find the lake. Along the path I pass a couple who had just checked in. We say friendly hellos with deep smiles as the lushness of this place ignites a playful delight in seemingly everyone I meet here. A few seconds after I pass them I realize I had forgotten my notepad and pen. I turn back and notice the couple at the bottom to the stairs of my cabin. I do the math pretty quickly but decide that maybe I am too eager to give up a good thing. Maybe all the cabins are this sweet and they are lost. Maybe they are lost instead of me. I ask them if this is their cabin and they both seem a little confused. “What's the name of your cabin?” they ask and I say I do not know. I look for papers that I do not have while they sort of do the same. “What's the name of yours?” I ask and one of them replies “I think it's the honeymoon sweet”.
Through a bit of awkwardness I mildly reassure them that this is probably the honeymoon suite and that I will remove my luggage. They thank me and I ascend to awkwardly carry my solo packing gear down all while hoping I did not sully at all the romantic notion of the privacy of their suite.
At the end of the trail I drop my luggage and take a survey stance to glean over the woods. I see a structure deeper in and eventually find a path that leads to what becomes an outhouse. At the outhouse the trail forks off with one leading to a larger structure and the other to an outdoor shower. I follow the trail to the larger structure thinking this must be my residence. It is a two story structure and most of the walls are mosquito nets. On the bottom floor are about twelve or so bunk beds. The whole structure, outside and in, is covered with colorful paintings. Some are characters from Dr Seuss books, there are a lot of those, there are murals of women, murals of men and murals of dreamlike landscapes. Encouraging phrases like “Live your dreams!” and “You are worth it!” are stamped on the walls and frames as well as bed furniture, ceilings and beams.
I decide to take the top floor. It seems less crowded and I remember Jonathan saying something about a top floor. The top floor only has two bunks with the rest of the room being an art room. There are easiles, books, papers, crayons, stencils, and tool chests filled with art supplies. One of the bunk beds has two mattresses on it with the bed above it as a barren plank board covered in some dead leaves. I think about taking the second mattress and putting it to the top deciding the temporary resident must have become greedy for double padding. I decide against the modification and instead begin to clear the top bunk of dead leaves determined that I can be comfortable on the plank.
Someone new enters and introduces himself as Ryan. He is dressed like a camp counsellor wearing cargo shorts, a green t shirt and a brown tilley hat. I extend to shake but he brings me in for a hug which lasts nearly twenty seconds. He asks if I’m sleeping up here and whether or not they told me to sleep up here. I say I can’t recall a thing about most things and he says he is sure they told me to sleep downstairs as the upstairs is for staff only. I agree but he says he doesn't care whether I sleep there or not. I take up this overlook and keep my luggage where it is.
During the day I walk about to get a feeling for the grounds. I meet some other guests doing a loop along the lake. Some are in groups and some are alone but everyone seems very relaxed and sort of here for the similar reason to unwind. I meet a woman who had been coming here since she was eight, and, now is here with her daughter of age eight visiting for her first time. Her and her friends, along with her daughter are from Florida. It is a first time visit for her friends. With large beaming smiles we introduce ourselves and part ways for the time being.
I go back to the main area to check out the library and guitar collection. I meet a man named Harry there who is part of the staff. We talk about guitars for a bit and I find out he is a teacher of the instrument and has been playing for over fifty years. He says he saw me in Nashville and names the hostel I was at. I don’t recognize him. We check our travel dates which do not match but nevertheless he is sure he saw me. I play guitar for about an hour but when Harry returns from work I scurry away afraid to be in his presence.
Thank you for reading Episode 1 of this exciting new chapter! Stay tuned for Episode 2 where we sing around campfires and watch a storm engorge the swamp!