Human beings love boxes. We like to be sure everything and everyone fits inside little boxes we build for them. That way we know if the box is too fat, too thin, too dirty, too foreign, too white, too tall, too skinny, too loud, too quiet, too irresponsible, or too anal.
George Carlin made millions of dollars on a monolog all about putting our lives into boxes. All while unpacking the American Box of materialism.
I met someone whom people regularly try to shove into a box.
After you meet him though… you realize that he isn’t easily contained.
I’d like to introduce you to Mike Paton. Artist, migrant worker, friend, mentor, and hobo.
That’s a lot to try and fit into a box. So instead of closing it and putting it away… let’s Open it and see what’s inside.
If you open the box, maybe you’ll learn to appreciate the way it looks instead of ignoring it.
Just open it.
INTRO: I’m really happy that you decided to do this interview. Thank you… to start us off, why don’t you tell us where you grew up.
A: Well, this is hard to say. I lived and was raised all over Massachusetts. I grew up changing schools as a child and had family help raise me. As I got a lil older I grew up in Cedarville, Manomet, North Plymouth then stayed with family all over from Bourne in the cape to Quincy to Pembroke to Onset. My life was spent a bit by the ocean. I have most childhood memories from Cedarville to Plymouth.
My father came to be in my life at the age of 10 and lived in Maiden, Plymouth, Bourne and Plainfield CT for a short while and Hartford CT then back to Plymouth Ma to Taunton Ma. I believe those are all the places I’ve spent up to age 17-18.
Q: How many siblings do you have?
A:Three half sisters and one brother. I am the oldest, Emily is second oldest, Amber second, third Isis and step sister Alyssa and little brother Cyrus.
Q: What was your family structure? Did it change over the years?
A: I was raised by my mom with my sister’s father. When I reached the age of 5, every summer me and my sisters would go stay with other close family. When I turned 10 I met my real dad. I thought my sister’s father was my father the whole time.
My dad’s family and him tried to take me in although I’ve only come to know mom’s side of the family. I was not what my dad expected. I lived with my aunt at one point then back, then got in big trouble for doing quite a bit of graffiti. I’ve been raised like a wolf or gypsy and had a strange relationship with my father since we’ve met. We don’t talk all that much these days.
Q: What do you mean by “I wasn’t what my dad expected?” You were 10. What kind of expectations could he have for a son he never knew?
A: After my own investigation of what happened and what led to why I didn’t know him and had two sides to the story. my parents were neighbors, and fooled around experimenting and i came to be. They never got along i guess and so after that my mom did everything to keep him away.
My sister’s father had things under control. He was never to be known till they fell apart and my mom decided to have me meet my real dad. I was raised not to be what he expected and would get into trouble a bit. He has given up on me a bit. We are estranged in a way but I still had many male role models.
Q: I can’t imagine what it would be like to find out that your dad wasn’t really your dad. Do you remember your reaction to that news or what you were thinking when you found out?
A: Shock was felt. I Thought it was a joke of sorts or a prank but it was true and awkward and life changing finding out the truth. Meeting the family I missed the chance to grow up with. My father also missed the chance of being a part of and helping mold his son into the man he imagined. The first ten years I had my sister’s father raise me and with the help of my uncle and other figures that were around during those years teaching me how to be a man.
I feel that my father was not happy with who I was at ten. I didn’t have the values and morals he wanted me to have. We both tried to build a relationship with each other. I kept getting into trouble in school which really upset him. After so long it felt like he gave up on me a little at a time.
When he got married in China and brought her over things changed a lot. I was put on the back burner in a way and folded over from a picture like uncle buck to be written off. I felt apart from the family he built, not a part of it. He had an idea of what he wanted for a family and I was not in that idea of a family he imagined.
My step mom grew quick to not like me for getting into trouble so often. Tagging the school, skipping classes, being defiant like teenagers supposed to do. At some point, my step sister wrote me off during me raising a fake son with a crazy girl I thought was lovable. Found out after a few years that she was a narcissist and the son i was raising was a lie.
My step sister didn’t like the girl I was with and argued with her. She had a feeling I was being led on. She was also given more than I will ever get of our father’s attention, approval, love and help financially with cars, college, hobbies and trips with friends. I envy her for what she has for I will not ever get this from my father.
It feels like he only keeps in touch with me to see if i died yet. So one less person to be responsible for and worry about if he does at all. I’d rather not know. I try to have a relationship with him and it gets shut down with no responses for quite some time now. I do what I can to understand why he removed himself from my life. I’ve been on my own and do the next right thing without him. I wish we had better contact and relationship.
Q: Do you still keep in contact with your sister’s father?
A: I look up to him still for his hunting skills and outdoorsman skills. He did his best and also crashed and burned in his parenting skills. We talk from time to time. I ask for advice as I’ve traveled.
Q: Did your art and graffiti play into the decision to pursue this lifestyle or is your art just something you do while you travel?
A: When I was a teen I painted anything that sat still long enough and trains were one of them. I seen my tags in surrounding states and was thrilled, but then crushed when I realized my art was traveling harder than me. I was curious to go with that train car to another town or city to decorate and leave my mark on society.
Q: How old were you when you first became interested in Art and graffiti?
A: I’ve been drawing since I can remember. My mom said I drew a decent ninja turtle at the age of 4. I grew up watching a lot of cartoons so I drew my own cartoons and graffiti. As I got older I noticed street art.
Q: At what age and how did you become aware of the Hobo or Traveler culture?
A: As I got older, aware and more inquisitive I had several times me and travel culture crossed paths. I was maybe 7. . . i seen a woman hidden on a train passing beneath me in Middleboro Mass. She motioned to be quiet and when the train finished passing I told my aunt I seen someone.
When I was 17 I was painting in the same train yard as that experience as a child and met dirty kids. They wanted to tag along cause they knew what I didn’t. I Was made for it. When I was 18 I was walking back from work and met rubber trampers that I helped and shot the shit with. They wanted me to come with them but I didn’t go then.
When I was 21 I met two hobos. Mitch and Art in Greenfield, Ma. They took me under their wing for a short while and took me on my first trains to Maine from Ma. They Irish good-byed me in Portland Maine. I had a lot of trouble getting on working with little advice.
Q: What’s an Irish goodbye?
A: The action of leaving in late hours of the night without saying goodbye and leaving abruptly.
Q: When did you know that you wanted to make this your way of life?
A: I tried many approaches of doing the travel thing with friends or alone. Every time got better and better and I got better and better and became intune to all the survival skills you need.
Not just in the woods but in society. I’ve stayed open minded the whole way. After a great heart ache and mentally pained by trauma I decided to go full out. I dodged a bullet and decided to live the way I felt I was made to live. There’s something spiritual about it. I’ve gotten to know myself. Being happy with myself and always happy with my choices being fully hearted, and honest along the way. Be a role model and lead my own life wherever.
Friends, we help each other grow and develop to build better people than we already are. Trading knowledge and having the courage without the aid of drugs and alcohol. Hopping, hitching and walking into new great experiences that will shape me for my future, wherever I may end up. Settled into my spirit I feel at peace on the move. Standing still is painful.
Q: For those who don’t know, what exactly is a tag and why are they important to you?
A: There’s many ways to do graffiti from simple bubble letters to detailed letters that are so complicated it is like a puzzle to decipher. colors and detail change from artist to artist with their letter shape and flow of their style. Some feel its damaging property, the writers feel like it is beautifying the space chosen to decorate and the fame and notoriety that follows.
Q: How do you decide where you’re going?
A: Weather is key, the people in that area, work, curiosity of new places and people build me up to go see. A lot of the time I have a basic itinerary and things come up as I travel, that way adventure always has its twists and turns.
Q: How do your family and or friends feel about your lifestyle?
A: Family and friends think I’m nuts. I think they’re closed off to my kind of experiences, my family that is and for friends they just don’t have the balls or heart to hop trains and travel the way I do. Family worries and friends think I’m awesome. They never will join me. . . it’s a brave way of life and a lot of problem solving.
Moving about the country with little money in my pocket with a head full of skills. Some people would fold, being put into some of the places I go and make a way to get by. I talk and network without the aid of booze and stay omni present and open to learn and adapt along the way.
Q: Do you ever make new friends that you find hard to leave or do you just know
You’re leaving and don’t allow yourself to become attached.
A: For someone like me it’s not hard to make friends. Choosing to be friends with me is the tricky part. I’ve met people who want to exploit me for my spange money or their codependency. Lonely people find me at times and realize along the way I’m a source of light. Some want as much of my good energy as they can soak up which dissolves my inner peace.
You can’t pour from a half empty glass, there are people that god intended for us to meet to help grow and develop as people. Either way self realization and truth resolution of past problems without asking get answered and I feel like I’m living the bible verses of the apostles and Jesus’ travels.
Q: Do you see yourself as a part of society or living on the fringe of it?
A: I try to go without dealing with society as much as possible but we must coexist to survive. I prefer to live away from people, to grow and learn and gain peace to deal with towns, cities and people. I love simple living and life is complicated when I gotta hang out or be around their demeanor. Their way of life is not of my understanding. These places make me feel like I’m the smartest in the room. Where did towns and cities go wrong, where did people go wrong? It is difficult for me to live the way my family wants me to live.
Q: Do you often run into travelers you know?
A: Not all the time but when I do it either is two alpha males trying to test their skills and toughness or a high of good vibrations and to change plans for the day. To just hangout sharing stories and each other’s company knowing they are on the same journey as me, just a different quest than mine. Deep understanding happens and either becomes a temporary hangout to meet up again or a team up and join quests for a while.
Q: Do you ever fear for your safety or have there been any incidents that have made you question the lifestyle?
A: Tweakers are a concern because meth destroys people’s minds. You never know what they might do because they are not in charge anymore. They don’t sleep and medal in my life trying to steal from me as I sleep. They threaten me when awake, they hang around me and upset me cause they ruin things for me to make money. They talk with the people of towns and cities along the way. I try to make them as uncomfortable as possible when this happens. Most gang people like me. They are dangerous and I see through the snakes between all of them. I’ve gotten better at detecting it before it’s too late.
Q: If this lifestyle wasn’t available to you as an option, what do you think you would be doing or what would you like to be doing?
A: I’d travel and mural the United States as a job of course.
Q: Do you feel safer when you travel with a friend, or doesn’t it matter?
A: I prefer to travel alone. I have not found a woman to join me yet. I have one friend that I travel with seasonally. Traveling with some people, they become a liability and that complicates what the traveling experience is supposed to be.
Q: How long do you see yourself traveling? Do you think you’ll ever settle into one place?
A: That’s hard to say, guess you could say to be continued! I have ideas and realistic ideas. What will manifest in my life will be determined later. I’m going to enjoy the journey leading me to what will become of me.
I certainly wish you the best and hope life treats you well. Thank you for taking the time to share yourself with us.
I feel very lucky to have gotten this interview. Please check Mike out on his YouTube channel Spanger Things. Please give my blog a like and share. I hope you enjoyed meeting Mike. I certainly did!