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Wisdom from the Asphalt Jesus: How to Survive on Creek Water

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Mark Creek-Water in not a Native American and he is not a homeless person, though to hear his name and to look at him, one might make those assumptions. His skin is bronze and weathered from walking across America, several times and in many directions, taking occasional rides when offered. He does not have a home somewhere, though his sister in Texas wanted him to stay the last time he visited. He seems to find "home" on the road among the friends he makes along the way and keeps in contact with via email from library computers.

He does find it hard to use library computers sometimes because the librarian asks for ID and he lost his somewhere along the road. He had a birth certificate from someplace in Florida two years ago, but it got lost, too. It wouldn't take long for him to search through his backpack for lost things, with the thin blanket and clear plastic poncho rolled up on top of the pack, or through the heavy cloth bag that has printed designs of Route 66, (found on the side Route 66, of course). I lose things, too, usually somewhere in my cluttered house or car, but he has the whole United States, or select highways anyway, to misplace things.

So instead of ID, he shows the librarian a book he carries, printed in 2007, titled, The Asphalt Jesus, in which he has his own chapter, titled, "Mark, The Perfesser, Creek-Water." The book follows ten people, nine of whom are professed Christians, on a hike across America to present a gospel in contrast to the one so many Fundamentalist Christians are identified with these days, the anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-war, Biblical-literalist one. These walking Christians in the book met with other Christians in churches along the way and professed a gospel of acceptance of gays, caring for the poor and homeless, peace, and other "left wing" themes. The tenth one, who is Mark, says he does not identify so much as Christian, but that he is of late feeling strongly the Holy Spirit with him on the road and that he would like to be identified with the Asphalt Jesus. He is not so much pro-choice as he is pro-life, all life. He would like to organize a rally that has people holding signs of aborted fetuses interspersed with pictures of killed soldiers. ALL life is precious to Mark, because all life, down to the very molecules, is filled with God, or the Higher Power.

When I caught up with Mark on this trip through Columbus, Ohio, we agreed to meet at Victorian's Midnight Café, and we both invited others to join us. As I arrived I found Mark and three others on the back patio, happily munching on rolls Mark had retrieved from the closest Panera's dumpster. They had been in a plastic bag, so no one seemed to be worried about their cleanliness.

We moved to a cement wall outside and next to Vic's so I could have a more focused conversation among the many voices and loud music (It was Grateful Dead night at Vic's). I asked him if his pro-life stance carried to mercy killing, such as when a person is in so much pain that they do not want to go on. He expressed very adamantly that people are not supposed to get into so much pain, that we are meant to live and die peacefully, without pain, that if people used holistic medicine and not conventional, they could be healthier. He believes it is all a part of the duping of the American public by the corporations and media. Why do we need three different kinds of soap when one would do? Why do peace activists and other progressives continue to buy products like toothpaste when baking soda would do? Why do we who know better continue to support the greedy people who sell us junk we don't need? Why are houses empty and people homeless? Why is there good food in dumpsters and people hungry?

I asked him what he has seen in the year that has passed since he was last in Columbus, as he has walked across the country. He replied, empty buildings where businesses have closed, (which are convenient for sleeping under their awnings, on rainy nights). Empty houses in suburban neighborhoods, where he did not sleep because the neighbors would report him. And, "globalization."

"What did he mean by that?" I asked. Globalization is a term that is tossed around a lot these days. I remember when it was a good, or at least neutral word, that meant considering the economics of the whole world and her peoples.

Globalization, Mark explained, is the owners of big corporations who have no allegiance to any country or religion. Their motive is profit and they would as soon move their manufacturing equipment to China as keep it in Michigan. And they can do that because their corporation has headquarters and CEO's in both places. They don't care about the people in any country.

Politics likewise is a sham. Mark likes Ron Paul, and also John Edwards, but both were disposed of by lack of media attention. Edwards spoke out against corporate greed, so naturally the corporate controlled media cut him off. Mark doubts that Obama, even if elected, will be able to make a real difference. Of course in Ohio, as in most states now, Mark won't be able to vote without ID.

In the past year, at his sister's, they had watched two 9/11 Truth documentaries. He had thought that this government conspiracy stuff could not possibly be true. But around the middle of the second one, it suddenly struck him, "It was an inside job!" He then shared with me a newspaper write-up of a recent interview Amy Goodwin did with Gore Vidal. Mark was depressed because even Vidal had lost hope that we could reclaim our Republic and our Democracy. The Bush regime had taken over our country after 9/11, which was staged of course just for that purpose. How can any leader, even if joined by all the caring people in the country, begin to undo the evil that has been unleashed in our world?

Yet against all reason, this man, Mark Creek-Water, gives me hope. I forgot to explain that his name derives from the fact that he swears that drinking from public creeks has made him healthier, that it is better to drink water that has incidental pollutants, than tap water with known chemicals and prescription drugs. He held up two empty pop bottles filled with part of the Scioto River. It was yellow and murky. He quoted Mark Twain as saying the Mississippi was half mud but drinking it would not kill you. Mark never lets me buy him a meal, but did agree to a Mountain Dew, which I noticed was slightly more yellow than the Scioto. He never asks for money, or a place to stay, or a ride, but will take them if people offer them willingly. He is content to keep walking and meeting and talking with people. They only want he expressed to me was to meet a female companion somewhere to join him in his life-journey.

I was not ready for such a commitment, but I intend to stay in touch in case I need him to teach me about survival on the road on the day that may come when I run out of gas and credit. He certainly has much to teach about how little we need to survive, and survive happily by sharing with others. I offered to drive him to a nearby town where he wanted to make good on a promise to treat to dinner a man he had met there a year ago. Nothing expensive, just a Burger King. Mark had been saving his money just for this. As we stood to leave, another customer at Vic's walked by us and stopped. As improbable as it seemed to me, this man said to Mark, "Hey, thanks for the bread you gave me! It was just what I needed!" I must have looked surprised, so he continued, "I recently became a vegetarian, but I didn't realize I needed to eat bread, but I did and it really helped me. I was feeling bad." This made little sense to me either but I did not miss the symbolism. Here was Mark, a man who outwardly has nothing, coming to a restaurant in Columbus, feeding many people with bread he has found practically on the ground, like manna for the ancient Israelites, and they are expressing genuine thanks. Communion from the Asphalt Jesus. The very antidote to corporate greed.

I dropped him in Westerville between two churches. I drove around the block and saw him headed down a dark street away from the churches and toward the trees where he could disappear for the night. Tomorrow he would call the man who lives in Westerville and take him to dinner at Burger King.

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Ok. I admit it. I'm not really a cow, except in an alternate reality. But wearing a cowsuit has gotten me attention where normally no one would have given me the time of day, for instance, at a Democratic convention in Columbus, of the "inner (more...)
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