Truck Stop Coconut
I went tumbling into the truck cab just beyond the California border. The driver was blond and gaunt, and he was firm about getting us in quick. Robby hoisted me from behind and Sweeney grabbed my arms, bracing himself against the dashboard. The momentum from the extra weight of my backpack sent me sailing over the trash that covered the floor, into the raised bed behind the seats. The driver reached over Robby, and slammed the door, took out an American Spirit Light, and smoked it quickly. "I'm Wayne," he said. "I can take you as far as Fresno."
For several miles, everything was silent except for What a Long Strange Trip It's Been which seemed to be issuing from all corners of the cab. Wayne explained that we were going to have to hunker down in the bed when he drove through weigh stations, and as he spoke, I realized that the cab floor was virtually covered in fruit rinds: apple cores, orange peels, shredded lemon halves, whole coconuts with the tops sawed off, avocado peels with fork-marks through its green flesh. There was none of the usual truck driver garbage, no chip bags or candy wrappers or soda cans. In an unaffected tone, Wayne asked where we were from. We could have said the moon, and he wouldn't have been surprised. We tried to explain where we were going, but realized pretty soon that we weren't exactly sure. "Wayne," I said, over the roar of the truck, "you sure eat a lot of fruit."
"That's because I recently started a raw foods diet." He enunciated the last part, as though in quotes, to keep from seeming pretentious.
"Sure," I said. "That's great. Do you feel better because of it?"
"I'm getting fuckin' sick of fruits and vegetables--but yeah, I do."
When I asked what he ate, he said, rather darkly, "Salads." But then: "Lots of kim chee and sauerkraut, too (which he provided a comprehensible recipe for) and fish, too--I let it marinate in citrus for four hours, so that it kills the bacteria but protects the enzyme. And also, cured meats, like salami. All of that's raw. But I make my own beer. That's one thing I can't give up."
As Wayne elaborated, I thought about the dissolution of socio-economic distinctions--in a lot of ways Wayne was this totally blue-collar, chain-smoking, gruff, guy who grew up in the poor town in Michigan. We had just come from a solidly middle class, new-age wedding in Mendocino, and here he was talking about the same stuff they were: the importance of digestion, of keeping the natural enzymes in the food so that the body has more energy for everything else. "Some people use fifty-percent of their energy for digestion," he said, taking out another cigarette. "By the way, will you change the cheesecloth on my sprouts?"
Sweeney and I were crouched on the bed, and realized that amongst all the other debris, were two large pallets holding Mason jars full of sprouts. Wayne directed us as we fished through bags and boxes which were splayed everywhere, until we found a roll of cheesecloth and a pair of scissors. We cut the cloth into strips, and then unscrewed the lids of all the sprouts, and replaced the old strips--bouncing with the truck all the way. Wayne, still smoking a cigarette, one hand on the wheel, took each jar and dumped the excess water out the window: one by one.
At a truck stop near Redding, he straightened out his cab, threw away the trash, and a soft silence fell between the four of us. Sheepishly, we brought out rations from our backpacks, much of which were leftovers from the wedding, and shared with Wayne. He cracked open the crown of a coconut and handed us three straws. We took the straws and froze. "Well," he said, and we put the straws in and drank. It was sweet, cold and not filmy the way it is in supermarkets. We gave him some hummus, bread, and pesto, all of which weren't raw, but OK, he said, "because at least the bread was sprouted." He took out a cooler, and drew a couple of jars of homemade kim chee, which he shared with us. It was a warm day, angling toward late afternoon. Back on the road, I sat against the back of the cab, spooning the flesh out of the coconut and listening to Wayne's story:
"This shit's hard on your body. I've been trucking for five years, now. A lot of guys come out of it with serious body problems. Rail workers, by the end of their career, all have sciatica. It's when this nerve running from your hip down to your feet gets all fucked up from the bumping of the cars. They get paid for the rest of their lives because of how much damage engineering entails, er, incurs...
"I like to pick hitchhikers up. I used to be homeless. I was homeless in Berkeley for nine years, more or less of my own choice. I mean, in Berkeley, you can eat three meals a day year around if you're homeless. I used to hitchhike a lot, then... but then, Carmen got pregnant. Carmen's my baby-mama. We'd only been seeing each other for a few months, and she was working at this daycare in a church. Since she conceived out of wedlock and all, they fired her, and so, well, we had to get a house... we have three kids now. I was just home for my daughter's 6th birthday... I love me kids. And I love Carmen. I just never wanted to marry her...
"There's a lot of folklore surrounding Mount Shasta."
"There is? Like what?"
"Well, supposedly there's this guy, Saint Germaine, who roams around the base of the mountain, sometimes stopping into towns. He's a prophet, a mystic-guy. And then, there's supposedly a race of aliens--so, yeah. I guess those are the only stories..."
Head of cabbage (chopped in strips)
Finely chopped carrots, radish, broccoli, garlic, pepper, etc...
Put ingredients into a jar, and pack down with water or miso so that the liquid is just a little higher than the vegetables. Keep the lid loosely, but fully covering the opening. Let sit three to four days.