Day one began in Flagstaff. I wandered around town mostly looking for a free lunch and dinner. Flagstaff is a great western rail city. The trains scream through the town every few minutes crying out loud with whistles and the squeaking wheels over iron rods, twenty-four-seven, non-stop. Flag is full of travelers making it a pretty fun town to drop through. The cops are mean, but easy enough to avoid if you take care. The city’s tourism and university economy make it easy to live on the cheap or for free. And Flag is surrounded by beautiful pine wooded forests making camping out at night a pleasure. In the summertime it's a hobo's paradise. Watch out for the winters, they're bitter cold.

Up and down the main strip of Flagstaff, the old Route 66 that has become built up with shopping centers and corporate stores I wandered looking for food or other freebies. There’s few good places to rest, but a lot of places to look for a meal, and many places to steal from. I like to steal. I shoplift from corporations only. I never steal from individuals or small businesses. My kleptomania is for the sake of anti-capitalism, not for the sake of itself. WalMart, Target, Barnes and Noble, Safeway, Walgreens, fuck em’ all. I steal from them like no other. I mostly take food, but also other necessary supplies like maps, tools, medicine and whatever else I can use at the moment.

Flag’s houseless population is composed of two main groups. One group is mostly older white tramps and hobos. The other is mostly Dine men, young and old, alcoholics mostly wandering off the res, looking for something they can’t find. Then there are travelers like myself who bounce through town. The jail in Flag is full of Navajos and Chicanos. I’ve met a few white men who’ve given me rides around the area, men who’ve been in the jail for drunk driving and other crimes. The first thing they all remark about is how the jail is filled with “Indians and Mexicans.” The racism of the police force is notorious among people of color who live on the streets around Flag. Unlike me they cannot rely on racial privilege to blend in, to avoid being stopped, interrogated, locked up, brutalized.

The next several days I spent wandering about Flag, dumpster diving at several bakeries and food stores and resting and reading near the old town tourist district….

The painting in this post, "Flagstaff Bound," is a work by Shonto Begay: “Born on a Navajo reservation sheep camp to a weaver of Tonalea storm patterns and a respected medicine man, as a boy Shonto was removed from his Hogan home and forced to attend a government boarding school away from his family and culture. Now he reclaims his identity through his art, balancing the harsh realities of reservation life with the amazing beauty found among its canyons and mesas. “I am very mindful that painting has saved my life many times over,” says Shonto. “It is how I’ve been able to dilute and even heal my own personal tragedies.”

No comments: