Text and photographs by Mikael Kennedy.
‘when I take the prisoners swimming,
they have the time of their lives,
I love to watch them, floating, on their backs
unburdened, and relaxed’
‘River Guard’ by Bill Callahan
I don’t remember why Joe flew in from SF, but after a few days of the city we climbed in the van and drove north. Joe had a family friend who leaves their house open in Vermont. Mike was staying with a girl on the other side of the mountain, just over the Lincoln gap so we started meeting up in the middle, hiking up to the locals only leentoo; we’d sit and watch the valley. We’d all grown up here, I was an east coaster, from over another mountain, down in the valley, Mike and Joe were from round this side.
Who knows how long Mike had been up here, I hadn’t seen him in NYC in probably a year, truth was I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen him, not since we drove 54 hours straight from Oregon back to the city to catch a friends folk show, we’d stopped talking for awhile after that. Corey was over Bar Harbor near the edges of Maine, no one knew why he was up there, he’d left the city months earlier but we started to hear rumors that he may show up any day.
Dylan was a new one, he’d been killing time on an island off the coast of New Hampshire waiting tables at an old resort, he had finally quit a few days before and sent word he’s be coming through after he visited his uncles farm in Montpelier. I met Dylan in North Carolina, first time through a girl I was dating, then again when he lived in Boston with me for a time being till he got in a bike accident and up and left one day with some of my favorite books on a bus back down south. No one really liked Boston.
Hell, Noah was the longest run, he’d heard we were all there and drove down all night from Toronto just for a day. Dirt roads where the dust kicks up in storms behind your tires, we had a 30 rack in back, we told the local kids to stop doing back flips off the rocks cause we weren’t fishing no bodies out of the quarry today, just jump off the lower rocks and be satisfied.
Maine is a new frontier, a quieter space, the shoreline stretching farther than the coast of California. I’d been returning here, there and again over the past few years, Daniel and I rode the ferry out to Peaks Island for the Sacred and Profane festival; one day a year when artists take over the old abandoned army base on the far side of the island.
Toby and his wife were there installing a windharp in one of the old tunnels, Robin ran through the crowd to hug me and say this was the reason she’d moved to Maine; she’d stumbled upon this years before and never left. A ferry ride full of mad men through the bay in the early rain, onto the dock and marching through the streets across the little island. I met a man there who a year later would tattoo a compass on my wrist, and another man who would give me a free darkroom to print my show in. There is a house just north of here called the Salt Water Farm where Annemarie lives, having escaped the City, we sleep in the guest room and take her dogs for walks on the shore.
We drove three hours through the pouring rain to knock on her door one night, we’d never met her before, just heard of the place, Jon would meet us there and take us to the top of Megunticook mountain where we could look out at the floor of the world through the mist and the salt spray reaching from the waves. I watched his pup run through the red of the blueberry bushes and we stood out on cliffs till we got scared.
The Odysseus began on a mountaintop in New Mexico. We lived in Bill Gersh’s old adobe commune at 9,000 feet. Jessica and Justin were there all winter, Jenn, Mike and I wandered in for a few weeks and then wandered out as seemed to be the nature of things.
I was sick of the city. It doesn’t take much for that to happen these days. I had been 5 years of living in New York, beginning in a friends closet and moving up to a room on the top floor that faced east. 5 years of saving every penny and buying tickets out of here, I’d never lived somewhere that I have fled with such passion before, returning to again and again. I used to call it the ‘castle & the kingdom’: the castle was here, all cement and steel, the kingdom was out there, on the roads, in the hills, the low houses, the kingdom was where I felt free.
Mike and I had spent 5 weeks living out of a car the spring before, driving a mad circle around the country, Jenn had settled into studies in Iowa, before that she was in New Jersey, and New York, and New Hampshire, every where could be a new place. Now Jenn and I flew into Albequerque from different directions. There was a note in her pocket “tan Volvo, new mexico, plates, key on front tire, I25- N to the Enchanted Cirlce, 84 – 68, just north of Taos find the road to Lama.”
We found the car and drove north, till we got lost talking. I had a compass in my pocket that told me we were heading south, we had gone too far. I spent my days just hiking the mountain, we’d walk with cameras through stream beds, the mountain had burnt down years before, the charded timbers rising over our heads. Eventually we were wading through knee deep snow scrambling up the mountainside. We never could reach the top.
At night we’d sit and drink whiskey by the fire till one night Mike and I almost got in a fistfight and I said the conversations were over.