Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Longest Walk Route Map is a little map of the route. The highlighted states are where we will be travelling. The green line is the route that they took in 1978. They are taking pity on us souls by NOT travelling across the Sierra and Rocky Mountains in February and March. Yay organizers.

The Longest Walk FAQ

So -- I've been getting a lot of questions about The Longest Walk journey I'm starting in February so I thought I'd put together a little FAQ and hopefully answer some questions y'all are having. I don't have all the details yet as they are coming in bit by bit...but I'll do my best and keep ya posted when they come up. So..

1) What is it exactly?

The Longest Walk 2 is the 30th anniversary of a walk that took place in 1978. Led by the American Indian Movement, it's purpose was to bring attention to the fact that Congress was looking to repeal remaining treaty rights that kept Native American lands sovereign - the walk was able to stop that legislation from happening. It was also a peaceful and spiritual walk that aimed to educate the public about the Native American way of life.

On this anniversary walk there are three main messages:

"All things are sacred, save Mother Earth."
"All things are sacred, save sacred sites."
"All things are sacred, clean up Mother Earth."

We will bring enviromental awareness throughout our journey as well as performing the simple act of cleaning up trash and debris along the highways we walk.

2) How far are you going and where?

We will be walking 4400 miles with an average walking distance of about 20 miles per day. Five days walking, one day of rest. The route begins on February 11th from San Francisco and we will wind along a southern route and then eventually north where we will end up in Washington D.C. on July 11th.

3) Do you have to carry all of your stuff with you?

We will be responsible for most of our own personal belongings, but this is a supported walk, which means there will be a caravan of buses and vans to carry overload supplies. Also, not everyone will be able to walk every day, or for the entire distance every that caravan will also be able to transport walkers as need be. This walk is open to everyone, including children and elders so they wanted to make sure everyone would be able to particpate to the best of their ability.

4) How much does it cost?

There is no charge for the walkers. This walk is supported by donations from the public. Our food, transport and shelter (when we are not camping, which will be most of the time) will be provided for.

5) Why are you going?

There are a few reasons why I'm going -- and none of them are necessarily more important than the other.

a) Having already planned financially to take a year off and devote time to my writing, I am in the grateful position to do this, so the timing couldn't be better.

b) I have, in the last 5 years, experienced some amazing growth through my recovery and my work at Sisters of the Road. I am looking forward to taking this time to integrate all I have learned spiritually and emotionally and take a look at "what's next" along those lines. I have learned that service to both my own spirit and others is how I can remain "trudging this road of happy destiny" and I am hoping this journey will provide some insight towards that end.

c) I'm a sucker for adventure.

d) Honestly, since I've heard about this I have almost felt guided by "something" to do this. I feel like I'm kind of along for the ride on this one and so even though I feel some fear around leaving feels right.

So........that's all I've got for now. You can go to to find out more, including the itinerary for the route. They have posted our first month walking schedule with more to come.

This was longer than I thought! If you have anymore questions, please send them along and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thanks guys!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

all aboard.......

I have a super cute housemate named Hank. He is almost 4. His mother is deep into finals at school and I have been roused to hang out with him. Such a chore. Anyway, wanted to share a Hank story with you all.

We are sitting at the Funky Door coffeeshop. We are enjoying steamed milks (me with almond, he with honey), and he is pounding his down like a drunken sailor at last call......which I point out to him:

Me: "Whoa dude, you are chugging that."
Hank: "Like a choo choo train."

Did I mention he's not quite 4?

This is why I don't like kids...little fuckers are way more clever than I am and the competition bristles me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

can't....quite...get this right...

trying, in vain to actually get this photo onto my little profile pic. desperately lame. good, good friend Chaela snapped this photo of me on a bitter cold morning at my favorite spot in Portland, Lone Fir Cemetery. She made me look not so goofy which just shows you what a wonderful photographer she is. Will try to delame this and get it in its rightful spot one of these days.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Let's drink a toast to your non-idiocy"

In the "yay for me" category:

I was offered the opportunity to write a column of my upcoming travels for our local Street Roots newspaper. Joanne Zuhl, the managing editor of the paper asked if I would like to contribute a bi-monthly column devoted to my journey on The Longest Walk II. I was honored and heartily agreed.

Street Roots has primarily been a paper that has focused on homeless issues and is sold by vendors who either are or have experience with homelessness. Since Joanne took over the editorship, she has been working to make the paper more about social justice and civil rights issues and has done a really nice job turning it into a good, progressive newspaper. They will be going from a monthly run to a bi-monthly starting next year which means I will get to post 12 columns over the span of my five month journey.

I can write about pretty much anything I want; from my spiritual journey to whatever subjects and issues I will learn about on the road. It's a wonderful opportunity to file stories quickly (I will have two weeks in between issues), as well as build up a nice portfolio of work. I am so grateful for the opportunity.

For those of you who live outside of the Portland area and can afford a subscription to the paper ($35) and want to check out my ramblings somewhere other than this blog - my column will begin running with the February 1st edition and run until mid-July. You can check them out at

In other news:

Gwen tried to get me to buy a "Turducken" today at her store. I flatly refused.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


So tonight Joan and I went to see "Mortified" at the Someday Lounge. It was awesome. Folks up on the stage reading their angsty journal entries from their middle and high school days. It was super fun and vindicating to experience that time through other people and realize that we are united in the tragic little beings of our youth. honor of the brave souls of Mortified...I give to you a little piece of prose written in May of 1982. I was 15, a sophmore in high school and experiencing the tragic lonliness of watching my friends head off on different paths...I was also about a year away from coming out...although I didn't know this at the time I wrote what was entitled:

An Excerpt of my Days

I walked up the long steps and down the path as I thought of the oncoming day. What would happen..and with whom would I associate best with?

On the road towards my hangout I saw ahead the regular toughs that stood around talking of girls, fights, cars and rock and roll. They were your typical high school hood guys. As I got closer I saw my usual group. A group..who strangely enough were not one with whom, given a minute to think about it, I would choose to hang with.
They were, eight months ago... a respectable type, but had changed dramatically since then. I loved them though - except for the one I wished I could kick the shit out of. I wrote something about her once on my friend's wall and she saw it. Little bitch tried to act tough about it, she wrote something about me, but I don't care. She doesn't scare me in the least.

There there's another one. Fucking crazy as hell and never willing to miss out on a dare. She's gotten in lot of trouble with the law - but she has never paid a single fine. Lucky...that's what' she is. Get's away with murder.

Then of course, there's one who I admire to high hell. Why? I haven't figured that out yet - I just do. She's my favorite - and lately she's been keeping better contact with me and stuff. Once I had a stomach ache and I just kind of said it outloud and she hugged me as if I was a little kid. I like that, it makes me feel cared for and loved. It doesn't make any difference to me who it is that makes me feel that way - male or female - it doesn't matter. I look up to her because I feel she really loves me. And for that, I love her a lot. It doesn't seem like a very good deal to some people, but I like it a who's gonna tell me I can't like it? Nobody - cause if they knew me...they know..that won't work.

God, that poor girl. Carol Bicknell was her name. I was so desperately confused. But probably not half as confused as she was by my....attention. So - there's that -- and much, much bad poetry. Here's just one tiny example:

When my spirit
Crawls inside me
I feel it should stay entrapped
I was young

I grew
My spirit came back
it knocked inside me
I knew I had to
Let it out

It took me over
I sailed
And I knew

The spirit
Is a free one
Don't imprison me
For you will find
I will escape.

What the?

Okay you guys --- drag it out, come on. If you've got any of this stuff leaching out of a cardboard box in the back of your closet, please share it by posting a comment here. I know you want to. Let 'er rip.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"This is your dance"

Tonight I went to a benefit concert and talk for the Longest Walk II – the journey I will be joining next February. I wasn’t going to go, feeling a little fatigued today, but I’m glad I went. I got there in time to see a video the organizers put together, chronicling the walk from 30 years ago and some of what we can expect from this year’s walk. There will people from all over the world joining us, including a group of Japanese monks who were along for the walk "back in the day." Also, a group of Aborigines from Australia are walking with us as well. There will be cultural talks during the dinner hour, lots of music, lots of drumming. It got me excited!

Afterwards, some of the members of the Native American community drummed and sang the American Indian Movement’s National Anthem and then we got to hear a couple of people speak who had done the walk back in 1978. It was inspiring to hear them tell the tales of their spiritual journey – and the sheer physical demands of walking that distance. One woman, who did the walk when she was 19, went through 6 pairs of shoes. Yikes. One man talked of the importance of making sure all races were welcome in this spiritual community and that "we are walking for the health of the Earth –we are walking so that we all can live, and that we are calling on the ancestors of all nations and all peoples to aid in this healing." I needed to hear that message and so I’m glad I was there.

I also got to meet up with my friend Antonio, who I know from the rooms. He’s going to be going the whole distance too, so I’m glad to know I will have a friend along. We talked about how we are training for it - putting time in at the gym and just gearing up for goddess only knows what is ahead.

When I got in my little truck to head home, the third movement from Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto was starting, which is just one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. The last movement of this piece starts off with a melody so sweet it makes me swoon and then gets into a rockstar piano solo that just floors me every time. There’s these last few seconds when it’s just this sweet little piano riff and a slow thrumming of the tympani right before it rockets into the final crash was the anthem rock of its day for sure. It was Beethoven’s last piano Concerto – the man was deaf when he wrote it, which makes it all the more astounding to me. I got to hear the Oregon Symphony play it this year, which was one of my highlight concert moments indeed.

I had first heard the “Emperor” when I was in high school. I don’t know where I picked it up, I had a cassette of it that I used to play on my Walkman, with those puffy orange headphones, and ride around on my midnight blue “chunkrat” one speed all over Mill Valley, blasting this concerto and just knowing that all was right in my world at that moment. And here it is 25 years later and I’m still here, and still swooning over Beethoven and everything is still alright in my world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Plenty of room left in that handbasket..."

This morning at ESSR one of the speakers mentioned that Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there is only room for 144,000 souls in heaven.

"Wow, only 144,000," gwen whispered next to me, "Not much point in working that anymore."

"What are we doing in this handbasket and where are we going?" I smirked back, quoting my favorite bumpersticker of all time.

The title of today's blog was gwen's response and it has just made me smile all day.

And, because I'm a dork - I had to look up the whole J Witness thing. Apparently, those 144,000 ( such a number that doesn't seem random. Number freaks? Religous know-it-alls? What's up with the 144,000?) get to hang out with Jesus and rule the rest of the saved after Armageddon. It sounds kind of Sci-Fi really - there's this whole Millennial Reign thing going on which just screams graphic novel. I'm sure I've reserved my space in that handbasket just for writing this down...and you're reading it, so I'm gonna scoot on over and pat the wicker next to me my friend.

P.S. After reading my first post, Joan suggested I rename my Blog, "Burt is my Mews."
See how clever my friends are? That's why I keep 'em much smarter than me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hola and Welcome

Howdy everyone, welcome to my first little foray into the wide world of blogdom.

I am starting this site mainly so I can keep up with you all while I am on my journey next year - we're still about 10 weeks away (from when I leave Portland), but I wanted to get this up and get some practice on posting before I headed out.

So you may have noticed the title - Burt is My Muse - for those of you who know me (and, who else would be reading this?), you know that Burt is the name of my cat who roamed around with me for 20 years. He passed away on October 16th, 2001, but he is still very much a part of me. If I can get a picture scanned onto the computer, I'll put his handsome mug up here.

"Burt" was not his first given name. I actually named him "Spiegelburg" - or Spiegs for short - but it was a crappy name and my mother, who always came up with great names for everything, started calling him a couple of different things. "Velvet Jones" was one, and then "Humphrey" and "Mew" and eventually it all came together into "Mewburt Humphrey," and that's where we settle into Burt.

I just realized that he was named with a pun -- which cracks me up. My mother is amazing at puns. I suck at them. There was a guy named Bob Lacey (R.I.P. Bob!) who worked in our office. And he and my mother would get into these unbelivable pun-offs that would last pretty much all day long. It's an artform, if done correctly, to work words like that. I was never very good at them, it's why I can't write headlines - I always have my mother in the back of my head groaning at my attempts. Her mastery, and my inability is probably why I can't stand stupid business name puns. Salons, I swear, are the worst offenders. "Hair it Is!" "Hair for You!" "The Mane Attraction!" Ha, get it! Mane - like in Main - but it's hair, so it's...ugh.

Anyway, so back to Burt. He showed up in a cardboard box in the arms of a young girl on my doorstep in Mill Valley, California. He was one of about 4 or 5 jet-black kittens, mewling and scrabbling around in the towels in the box and trying to scritch their way out of the top. I was 15. My folks were out of town. I knew my mom would freak, but...I was 15 and so I picked up this little guy who was calling to me and that was that.

My mom always loves to tell this story. "And so, I'm home, Nik's at school and I'm having my coffee and a cigarette and I hear this ...(and then she kind of scrunches down and gets into a really high voice) 'mewwww, mewwww,' coming out of her room. And I go in there, (and then here she usually makes some derogatory comment about the sheer disaster of my room - hey, shear disaster! -and talks about always finding forks in there and stuff) and I see this little, tiny black ball of fur and I say 'Goddamit Nikki!"

But she fell in love with him immediately. We all did. He was a great, great cat. He accompanied me everywhere except the year and a half I lived in New York, when he stayed with my Mom. He was with me in San Francisco for a few years which he probably hated - but we moved back to the outdoors in Mill Valley and then for the rest of his life - another 14 years or so, he was an outdoor roamer. He was a Burmese/Persian mix - a longhair - fur that he kept meticulously groomed and purty. He came and hung out with me when I cooked at the camps in Mendocino; he would mouse in my kitchen at night and sleep on the roof in the daytime. In the morning he would join me on walks along the creek and sniff at the ferns, pretending not to be following me. He walked with me a lot actually, in pretty much everyplace we lived. I loved that. I loved how he pretended not to be with me; how he would lag way far behind, until I got nervous and then I'd call him and he'd trot up. I loved him very much.

He eventually died of old age, kidney failure. His last year he lost his eyesight, but he never lost his sweetness. I buried him along the sandy banks of the Klamath River, knowing that his bones would join the river and his spirit would be forever free.

And that's the story of Burt. I wanted to keep him close to me, which is why I named this site after him. I hope to do him proud!