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Las Vegas: The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

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Las Vegas is easily the most disgusting place in the world I’ve ever been to. I’ve been three times now and absolutely love it.

 

I left Flagstaff filled with breakfast and a couple of grand ideas. I found that Public Enemy and The Cult were both playing in Vegas this night. On the same bill. Tickets were around fifty dollars, which seemed reasonable considering I would at least gamble fifty dollars away and not get it back. I love both of these bands. Public Enemy were one of my favorite hip-hop groups as early as their first album when I fell in love with the beat in “My Uzi Weighs a Ton” The Cult were also a favorite, so much that I actually have two Cult themed tattoos on my body but that’s a whole thing for another day. And no it’s not a “Fire Woman”

 

The drive there was unremarkable for the most part, mainly because my patience for driving was getting low. As a result of my detour to Austin I was well over three thousand miles at this point. I do love this little stretch from Flagstaff to Las Vegas. There are a lot of those moments where mountains in the distance take so long to reach you a sigh of frustration easily falls out of your head every time you see a new mountain range in the distance you know you have to reach. It’s the ultimate test of patience, this stretch. It’s pretty much your last day of long driving, and going to Las Vegas is literally a gamble. Every time I’ve been I’ve enjoyed myself until I got back to my room and contemplated what it was like. Imagine the entire customer base of Wal-Mart mixed with the cast of the Jersey Shore.

 

It was Saturday night and I was getting nervous, as hotels in Vegas are extremely cheap. NOT ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY THOUGH. I finally found a relatively cheap hotel off the strip (The Palms) I had a nice view of the fun part of Las Vegas from my twelfth floor corner room that was much nicer than the price seemed. I almost didn’t want to leave the room, but that was mainly because it felt like it was about two hundred and five degrees outside. I think it was two hundred and two. The woman checking me in half apologized to me that there was some sort of “pool party weekend” thing happening. Just then I noticed women walking around in bathing suits everywhere. I didn’t want to sound creepy and say, “That won’t be a problem” but I said, “That won’t be a problem” I mean really, I was on the twelfth floor and wouldn’t be going to the pool hoping for some sort of solitude.

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So the pool was pretty much right outside my window and the fucking bass from the DJ playing dance music was loud and impossible to avoid. My room was filled with all sorts of bonuses, snacks, drinks and an “Intimacy Kit” which was basically condoms, KY Jelly and I don’t know, a flash drive with a bunch of Marvin Gaye on it maybe? Who knows? The bathtub in my fancy Las Vegas hotel room had jets so of course I immediately go in, but not before I took out the marijuana grain alcohol thing and took more than I had taken the day before in Roswell. I had visions of walking into a casino like Johnny Depp playing Hunter S Thompson, crooked and wobbly, lights everywhere. I had already stopped my brief couple of days with the disposable vape-cigarette thing so I was allowed this (I think?) I would not be taking advantage of the free drinks waitresses bring you when you gamble aside from some coffee and soda. I almost fell asleep in the mini hot tub in the bathroom. I put on Steely Dan as loud as I could to drown out the pool party folks below. Not the ideal band to block out sound but you know, it was a long day and Motorhead as much as it would have been the most appropriate band wasn’t an option for what my brain needed. Certain music helps me unwind at certain times. A lot of times it is loud metal and that kind of thing just not this time. Okay.

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I took a little more of the weed cocktail thing and decided I would head down to the strip. I texted my friend who gave me the concoction in Texas and wrote

 

“So I’m going to up the dose for Vegas I decided”

“As your spirit guide I back this idea” he replied

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I discovered there was a shuttle bus to take you to the strip from this hotel. I got on the bus with a half dozen or so guys drenched in cologne. It was early still, probably about five or six more hours of sunlight. Bright Nevada sunlight. I can’t remember the last time I saw a tree. In this tinted windowed/air-conditioned caravan of douche I wondered how going to Vegas with a group of dudes works. I’ve always come here alone and it works for me. I gamble a little, eat a little and go back to my room. No alcohol or hooking up with women and that kind of thing. You know, stuff that’s just bad for you in general. When these guys meet women that are also traveling in a group how does that work out logistically? Sounds like a nightmare and a half. Speaking of nightmares, while daydreaming about the bros in the shuttle bus I start to feel the marijuana juice hit me. Thankfully it’s air-conditioned and a brief drive over a bridge and down a couple of blocks. It’s then I realize I have left my sunglasses in the hotel room. It’s so bright outside it looks like the sun, and although I don’t plan on walking around outside much, I need them to avoid eye contact. Just as it is on Hollywood Boulevard near all the bullshit, people are constantly trying to sell you something whether it’s a photo op with some unrecognizable cartoon character, or strange pussy for sixty dollars. I always make it a point to have sunglasses on the rare occasion I am down there. In Las Vegas you can at least slip from casino to casino without much contact with the sun. I just wanted my fucking sunglasses, is that okay? Especially as I started to feel like I was a little too high to be doing this. As we all exited the shuttle bus underneath Caesar’s Palace we were told there is a bus every hour on the hour and they end at 1:00 AM. I got out and immediately walked into the crowd of a casino in the afternoon. That familiar hum of slot machines, a light cigarette smoke odor and horrible people everywhere I looked. I lasted all of about thirty minutes before turning around and leaving and waiting outside for the next shuttle. Defeated by Las Vegas in less than an hour! It must be a record.

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The bus came rolling in a few minutes after the hour. For the journey back I was joined by a couple in their 60’s presumably heading back to their room to have sex; just kidding, presumably going back to their room to take a nap before going to the buffet later. I made my way back up to my room like a paranoid freak in a Black Sabbath shirt should be. I immediately took another bath in the tub with the jets in it. I waited until the sun went down. The two views in my room were west and north, the west view was blocked by a building so I did not get to watch the sunset over the mountains or anything spectacular like that. Once the sky was black and half lit up with Las Vegas I would go back out. My plans were to eat something horrible and disgusting for me, and then sit in a Keno parlor and drink coffee and maybe win a few hundred bucks. I did two of these things anyway.

 

I discovered that just across the street at the Gold Coast casino, which is kind of old and shitty looking, there is a keno area. I won’t have to get back on that shuttle bus and deal with remembering what time it is and that kind of thing. How convenient! I’m still pretty high as I leave the hotel after taking a bath and talking to a friend on the phone for a little while. I somehow forget that I was just going to walk across the street to the casino with the keno and then walk home and get back on the shuttle bus. The evening customers are a little more hardcore. About seven of us total on this bus. All men and one woman. All dressed like you assume people in Las Vegas dress. I’ve also remembered my sunglasses this time. Unfortunately it’s the evening and I now have to carry these stupid things around all night. I find an area where there is a bunch of different food and of course find the Chinese restaurant and order some rice. That’s it, vegetable fried rice and a cup of water. Not a glass, a cup of water. I take a few hundred dollars out of the ATM and make my way to the casino and immediately lose a third of that money. Bummed, I hit up the frozen yogurt place and get something that I immediately cover with shit like cereal and whatever else. I decide to leave the area and head back to my hotel again so I can walk over to the Gold Coast and play keno. It’s easy, uncool and more my speed as a seven hundred year old man.

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The Gold Coast is great, off the strip. Not too crowded, and the crowd that is there are mostly people with a good amount of grey hair on their head. I find the Keno area and pretty much stop here for the rest of my night. The waitress is quick with the soda and coffee refills and I’m fine giving her a buck each time, especially since I’m pretty much losing money by the minute just being in this casino. The folks in the Keno area are a rugged bunch. There’s me and my whole situation. A couple of women in their fifties whose husbands show up every half hour or so and hand them money, a couple of mysterious Asian men, and a handful of elderly men and women. Nobody in the keno parlor is getting laid tonight and that’s fine. I have a big day tomorrow; I’m on my last day of this long road trip where I am going to settle in California for the rest of my life. It’s going to be great.

 

 I walk back to the room, broke and feeling a little pathetic as I have every time I’ve come here. Thankfully I fall right asleep under the far away glare of the strip. I have a dream of the glare of light at the end of this trip; the final resting place, just out of reach. I’ll never take one of these long road trips again once I stop. I’m tired, torn and frayed, but yeah California will be waiting for me tomorrow when I get there. Life is just getting started.

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Roswell to Flagstaff: The Vapes of Wrath


I left Roswell feeling like shit again. Not physically, but not sure what I was doing. I was going to drive to Flagstaff today, not before hopefully stopping in Albuquerque and taking some photographs. This stretch of the drive is tough, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of this particular route but when you’ve already been driving for a week you kind of grow numb to it. “Oh, the earth shit out another mountain, great” The drive west to east allows you to experience that part of the country with a fresh pair of eyes and an empty brain.


I arrived in Albuquerque and my first order of business would be to find some Breaking Bad filming locations. I found two within a few minutes (the car wash and Saul’s office) I needed lunch. I pulled over in the Saul’s office strip mall and posted the Breaking Bad pictures on Facebook and then got a few suggestions around town where I should eat. Per usual, because I was by myself I decided I would get Chinese food. In New Mexico. For the second time in my life. The food was pretty good and I will stand by that decision as a good decision. It erases that first time I did this a few years ago or eating it in Oklahoma a few days before.



So I quit smoking cigarettes in 2009. June 15th, at 1:40 PM. I remember the date and time. I never went back ever. I even tested myself that summer by driving across country one and a half times and taking a train halfway across the country without nicotine of any kind. Six years later I never even think about it, people smoke around me, and although it’s horrible and disgusting, I don’t mind it that much. If anything it reminds me of why I don’t like smoking cigarettes anymore. On previous vacations cigarettes were your best friend on hours long drives. You could by a carton for real cheap on a Native American reservation and smoke as many as you wanted. One every hour, three in a row, there was no limit to the amount of cigarettes you could smoke. The main way I stopped smoking was I taught myself to dissociate cigarettes from boredom among other activities (post –meals, in between songs at band practice, etc). So they were useless on road trips. They didn’t improve any situation, they never did, ever. Vaping might have though. At a truck stop to get a beverage I decided to by one of these disposable e-cigarettes and “vape” I had spent the better part of a year making fun of vaping culture on social media, but I was out in the middle of nowhere no nobody would see me vaping. I was also confident going into the experiment I would not get hooked back on nicotine, and I can proudly say I haven’t vaped since or had a regular cigarette. I assumed I would try this for a day and just never tell anyone about it at all. I do all sorts of things in life that I never tell anyone about. Everyone does, right?


The one I bought cost me around ten dollars and promised me 500 puffs or something like that. I took it out of the package and took a drag off of it. I only tasted a little and it was pretty disgusting. They had flavored ones, just like the big boys vaping “mods” where you can get all sorts of flavors that a person should never vape. Even these small e-cigarettes have flavors but I just went with “tobacco” I guess it tasted like tobacco, and for the two days or so I used it I was “addicted” to it. Not in the physical case where I needed it, but I did keep pulling the thing out every hour or so to take pulls off of and blow little clouds of vapor in my Hyundai and perhaps just to have that feeling of smoking a cigarette in the car.

  
Because I left a little later than normal, I imagine as a result of the marijuana juice the evening before (Who am I?), I got to Flagstaff after the sun had gone down. It was a long uneventful day through a lot of beautiful mountains and long long long stretches of nothing. I try to get lost in either music, or someone talking on the radio, every once in a while just the sound of outside. Once the sun goes down and it cools off a little I start to get tense. It started raining when I got to Flagstaff. I pulled over and searched for a good price on a hotel, found one within a minute and booked it over the phone. I always like checking into these random places, seeing these generally friendly people at front counters that turn into new faces in the morning when you leave. After I checked in I walked to my car to get my luggage and “high ticket items” to be brought into the room as well as a hot cup of coffee I grabbed at a gas station. The rain started coming down so hard I was immediately soaked before I got to the car. I decided to get in the car and drive to find dinner which lasted all of about four minutes before I realized I could barely see out of the windows so I retreated back to the room, falling asleep to hammering rain on the window.


 I feel like any time you wake up in one of these places surrounded my mountains is an amazing experience, especially if you arrived post-sunset the night before. Flagstaff early in the morning is a glorious place. Bright, blue and green everywhere, mountains that are usually capped with snow but not in June. Today it was bustling. It was a Saturday morning so all of the breakfast places were leaking people into the sidewalks and streets waiting for a table. At this point in this trip I just want to get there. I don’t care about stopping and seeing things, or eating at better places than Denny’s or random fast food. This morning though, I decided to eat a better meal than Denny’s or a random sandwich from a gas station mart. I found a spot (I swear I would never say that out loud. It looks nice in writing, but if you ever talk to me in person and I recommend “a spot” you can punch me in the face or throw a drink in my face) on Yelp and headed there. There was a parking space right in front and because of me being alone there was a spot, err, seat at the counter. The counter is your friend in a diner. The waiters and waitresses are on top of your coffee at all times and you can make eye contact with the guy making your food. The food was great, it was still early and my next stop was Las Vegas. I was well full and ready for the long drive through the desert, long stretches with mountains on either side of you that go on for hours. Beautiful and endless views in every direction make for an intense drive until you start getting back inside your head. Miles away from where I just left with no actual plan. This is certainly no way for a grown man to be at this point. Las Vegas should be fun. It’s very hot out.

Steers and Fears: Texas and Roswell, NM


I really wanted to see the folks at the small coffee shop before I left but I also wanted to get the fuck out of Oklahoma and into Texas. I made my way to the gas station across the street from my motel and bought myself a steaming hot coffee and a horrible and disgusting breakfast sandwich that I ate all of. Most of my food experiences on this trip so far (and ahead as I will talk about) have been dismal. When I don’t have another person saying “I’m going to take you to this spot, you’ll love it” I generally fail at eating meals on the road. And when you have hip friends that call places “spot” you know you’re in for quality. Just as my good friend Mike in St Louis hooked it up with the meals each time I’ve visited, I also experienced in Austin. But that’s not for a little while.

So driving through this part of Texas, the northeast corner of it. It’s rolling hills and very un-Texas like. In fact at the end of this trip, I don’t know if it’s a result of where I drove but most of Texas was very un-Texas like. Not a single tumbleweed. No hours-long stretches of flat two lane dusty roads. Actually there were some of those. One thing I’ve discovered on this trip, I imagine by accident because my eyesight is going, wearing sunglasses doesn’t give you the 100 % experience of seeing things as they are. Since I was driving all daylight hours on this trip, generally before 7:00 PM I always had the sun behind me. Having sunglasses on dulls everything. You think of Texas as the color of sand and brown sugar but it’s colorful and bright and new if you’ve never seen it. What could be wrong with that?

The never-ending drive to Austin from Claremore, Oklahoma seemed like it took about twenty hours. In reality it was about an eight-hour drive with a couple of brief stops for gas. A good chunk of the drive was on Highway 69 so that was exciting as well. I got to Austin around rush hour and met my friend I’d be staying with at her work and then followed her to some place where she promised me “the best fried chicken ever” and it was pretty damn good. I ate too much, got a little tour of some of Austin and then we went back to her place where I met her roommate and THEIR EIGHT CATS, ONE DOG AND A BIRD, MAYBE TWO BIRDS. I had my own room to myself with an occasional curious cat coming to visit me as I read myself to sleep finally in a home and not a rented room.

In the morning I would meet another friend I only knew from the Internet, Joey for breakfast. Joey took me to a great “spot” and we had an amazing breakfast of chilaquiles and talked about playing music and living in Texas. I mentioned not traveling with marijuana on this particular trip and he suggested I try something I had never heard of called “tinctures” which is basically grain alcohol and THC. He gave me an eyedropper full of the stuff and instructed me very carefully. “Only take maybe one dropper full, usually in a shot worth of water” after that “it takes about an hour to hit you” I hid the stuff away in my car and was on my way. Years ago I never would have made the effort to meet people I only knew a little. Our interactions online were pretty minimal aside from posting in the same private forum here and there. But it’s these kinds of meetings that make traveling better. Meeting friends, familiar people and strangers make it worth the hours spent alone staring at the sky in front of you.


My host Jodie was out of work early and decided to take me to The Alamo. I had never been there, and it was a short drive south of Austin. I’m pretty sure it was about one hundred and twelve degrees out. Apparently nobody told me, guy with three shirts on, about the weather. Like a lot of famous sites around the country the place is smaller than you think it’s going to be, also it’s smack down in the middle of a city. The city itself has some beautiful old buildings I took some photographs of but the heat proved to be too much so walking around wasn’t on the agenda. We white knuckled it back to Austin and I almost had a heart attack about four times. This happens when I am the passenger in any car.

  

The next morning, after an intense breakfast with Jodie that included eggs and avocado as well as a waiter that had a handlebar mustache, dressed like a cross between Doug Henning and a mime I hit the road for my next stop, Roswell, NM. I had never been, I wasn’t expecting much really. This drive was another eight-hour drive that gave me time to take in the first half of the trip. One thing I realized was I didn’t really do much “Austin” stuff. Well I didn’t eat ribs or see live music, I did have a mustache though so there’s that. I had a few great meals and was there more to see friends than see buildings. I’ll go there another day and deal with Austin proper, for now I had this long ass drive to Roswell. I feel like this one did actually take more than eight hours but I don’t feel like figuring that out.


  
The drive was similar to the drive in the north east part of Texas for a couple of hours, filled with winding hills with a good amount of green and colorful flowers on the side of the road. This eventually turned into just flat, straight long stretches through farms. Occasionally a rusty cloud of dust would snake its way upwards like miniature tornadoes. I tried to capture it with my camera phone but I didn’t do it much justice. Every half hour or so I would pass through a small town that took thirty seconds to drive through, and then back going in a straight line for miles on end. I tend to listen to podcasts or people talking more than music at this point as it makes the time go by faster.

So here I am about ninety minutes outside of Roswell and remember my friend in Texas gave me that grain alcohol/marijuana stuff. Roswell is supposed to be UFO central, so what better way to experience it than with the weed juice? I figure if I take some now I’ll arrive in Roswell just as this stuff kicks in and perhaps I’ll see an actual UFO or an alien walking down the street. Or maybe a closed UFO themed gift shop? My friend said to just take the one eyedropper full. I realize I’m a little bigger than him so decide I should take one and a half droppers full. I don’t have water, just the last of a bottle of diet soda. I dig the stuff out and fill it once, squirt it into my mouth and it’s like when you’re 13 and take your first shot of alcohol. I haven’t had any alcohol in my system in probably three years so the taste hit me. It’s not the best tasting thing, but I also ate that whole breakfast sandwich back in Claremore, Oklahoma a few days ago after eating at a Chinese food buffet IN OKLAHOMA. I ATE SEAFOOD THERE. I fill the thing halfway and drink the rest of it. It’s pretty disgusting. About forty five minutes later I decide to blast the band Kyuss in the car thinking “yeah this will be great, Kyuss in the desert, buzzed, let’s do it” An hour has passed and nothing has happened and I’m getting closer to Roswell. I fill the dropper up completely and take it down. Cough for a couple of seconds and again, wait. Nothing. I arrive in Roswell and am surprised at how much more lived in it looks than I imagined. I imagined this tiny place with two streets, a diner and that alien museum you hear about. No, it’s a fairly sized town with a lot of modern buildings and typical suburban sprawl, just not as desolate as I had imagined. I was staying at a Holiday Inn here where, like most towns I’ve stopped in, I found while sitting on my phone in a parking lot nearby looking for the best rate. It was a Friday night so rates are generally higher. I get out of the car and at this point have kind of forgotten that I was waiting to feel high. I was sitting down in my car for however many hours driving and ingesting the weed juice. Disgusting really, the whole scene. Walking into the hotel I am surrounded by elderly people sprawled across benches in front of the hotel, one of them is wearing some sort of award on a red ribbon. She says hello to me and I say hello back and they all kind of give me that old people smiling head nod thing. Like a “yes I sense you are a nice young man” look not knowing I was just in the car blasting music about Satan and doing drugs because I’m balls deep in Mid Life Crisis Fest 2015. I think little of the scene and continue in.

 The second I walk up to the counter of the hotel two women in their 50’s greet me. I immediately think to myself “GOOD LORD I AM HIGH AS A FUCKING KITE RIGHT NOW” It all hit my brain and body right at that second. I somehow managed to get my room checked into with this woman and am also offered lemonade and cookies. I feel like I’m in a Cheech and Chong movie and I should be like “Hey thanks man, how’d you know?” The woman that didn’t wait on me pipes in, “wait until tomorrow morning, that’s when I’ll make my cookies” I say to the woman who waited on me “You hear what she’s saying about your cookies?” We have some sort of brief and completely unsexy banter about cookies and I go to the table and stand so they can’t see me take four of the cookies. Two in my breast pocket and then two in my hand, with a cup of lemonade and three bags of luggage. I somehow make it back to my room without passing out or having an anxiety attack and immediately turn the air conditioning to sixty-nine degrees. Oh yeah, there was a sign on the counter of the hotel “Rowsell, New Mexico Holiday Inn Welcomes the 2015 New Mexico Senior Olympics” Yep, I’m staying in a hotel filled with elderly Olympic athletes.

 I rest for a few minutes, it’s late in the afternoon and I need to check out the town and see if I can see “some UFO shit” I decided I should probably take some more of that stuff since I am now pretty high as it is, this will make the UFO stuff even more trippy. Yeah okay sure. I ingest another whole eyedropper full, this time mixed with a little water. I almost immediately feel it. My mission objectives are simple: Starbucks, some UFO shit, dinner.

 I find some UFO shit but it’s closed. Almost everything is closed, well aside from this Mexican bakery. I go in there and buy a couple of doughnuts to go with the four sugar cookies I ate an hour ago. I also buy something called “Mexican Sweet Bread” which is basically just colored sugar cookies, a bit fluffier and delicious. There isn’t really many places to drive around and I certainly wasn’t going to drive to the “official spot where the UFO landed in Roswell” as there’s not going to be anything there. It’s not like going to say the Giant Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, AZ, which is so immense and crazy to look at and contemplate. There’s certainly a fun kitsch factor to the whole town and the aliens painted all over the place, but I really needed a coffee and to go back to my room with dinner at this point.

 I found a Starbucks, stood in line and all of a sudden heard a guy behind the counter loudly say “can I help you sir?” as if he had already asked me and I was off in space. I was now paranoid thinking he assumed I was on drugs and was judging me. Especially wearing a big cross around his neck. I ordered my drink and moved along; now paranoid everyone knew I was not right in the head. As I looked around I noticed at two different tables folks studying the bible in groups. Native Americans reading the bible, I thought of that Willa Carter book Death Comes For the Archbishop, one of my favorite books. At that moment I needed to get back to my room and fade off into the New Mexico night.

Morning came and I joined the elderly for breakfast, sitting by myself. Acknowledging the elderly woman with the gold medal on with a smile and a brain full of “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” No time to contemplate crap like that though. I was on my way to Las Vegas. On a Saturday night. There was a concert with Public Enemy and The Cult on the same bill. I thought about doing that, or gambling, or relaxing or just sitting in a Las Vegas hotel worrying again if this trip even mattered.

The Longest Verse in the Bible Is…(Rolla, MO to Claremore, OK)


Jun 2, 2015 – Claremore, OK

Today was one of those days where my head was elsewhere. Not sure where. Well, I know where it was, I don’t know why. I had plans to drive a lot further than I did to make tomorrow an easier drive but ended up stopping and getting a room to get my head in order and it just got worse as the day and evening wore on. Feeling lonely and empty and unsure of the future just a few short hours after writing about how exciting it was to not have a plan. Once I start getting inside my head it’s impossible to get out and I act out with either humor or passive aggression that I generally keep to myself or use briefly and then immediately regret it. I have to keep reminding myself that even though I am out here with nobody, seeing friends here and there for brief periods of time the loneliness I feel was exactly the same in New England. They say certain smells will remain in your memory forever. The last couple of days my sense of touch has been with me, particularly my pets I left behind. I can feel exactly what the dog felt like to touch; I can picture just how he felt from nose to the tip of his tail. Same with the cat. I have great memories with the pets from the day I met them until the impossible tasks of letting them go to new owners. Before this turns into too much of a bummer, let’s switch gears.

 I am in Claremore, Oklahoma, which is near Tulsa. I could have driven a bit more but didn’t feel like tackling Texas today. I stayed here before, in 2009. There’s not much to do here aside from eat food that isn’t good for you, so that’s exactly what I did. It’s about three hundred degrees here today, everyone around here talks slower, everyone is friendly and says hello, or rather “howdy” I went looking for something to eat and for whatever reason thought it would be a good idea to go to a Chinese food buffet. In Oklahoma. The food was surprisingly okay, I’m not really a food snob and I know when I get depressed I will just eat whatever horrible thing you put in front of me. I feel like I’ve been eating a steady diet of sandwiches and French fries for this whole trip. My initial plan to “stop at cool small places” along the way was kind of thrown out the window to make room for a more relaxing trip. Just not putting too much thought into what I’m going to eat, and deal with finding places way off the route is not something I can get into. I am improvising this trip for the most part, but mostly to see stuff, photograph it/write about it, etc. Food is a secondary thing to me at this point. So this Chinese buffet. Anytime I have eaten Chinese food in other parts of the country that aren’t Boston or San Francisco I feel like I have some sort of chip on my shoulder like “yeah, you cowboys don’t know real Chinese food. I had to walk three miles in snow up to my balls to get a crab Rangoon” or, “I once sucked a dick for some scallion pancakes”, etc. There was the usual stuff at the buffet which is always slightly different and more disgusting than “back home” And then these was the seafood area. I thought to myself where I was right now: Claremore, Oklahoma. How far is the ocean from Claremore, Oklahoma? Like eight thousand miles at least. Okay, I’ll just try three of the ten different seafood things here. Surprisingly, I didn’t get sick while sitting in the restaurant.


While in the restaurant, in between trips to the buffet I thought of an idea for one of the Facebook Reviews I was doing for a while on Facebook. Someone had mentioned me reviewing all of the rest areas along the way. Aside from when I first started doing them, I never actually went to any of the places I reviewed. I just randomly found them on Facebook. I thought of the absurdity of a rest area in this part of the country having bibles in the stalls and went from there. Eating seafood at this buffet and maybe getting sick so I’d be on the toilet for a long period of time. I don’t know a thing about the bible. Sorry, The Bible. So I looked up “longest verse in the bible” Picturing a guy on a toilet for so long he’d be able to read the longest verse in there. I found it, wrote the review surrounded by gigantic white people and Native Americans from Oklahoma. Made some folks back home laugh and left the buffet feeling much better than I did when I initially pulled off the highway.

Trying to find coffee on ice or a coffee themed drink on ice in Claremore, Oklahoma proved to be a task. I found a cool little downtown area, saw a little coffee shop, pulled into a space right in front of the shop and saw the hours on the sign “Closed at 5:00 PM” Clock on my phone literally said “5:01” FUCK FUCK FUCK. If I hadn’t have searched that “longest bible verse” I may have made it. In the name of detail in my comedy I missed out on a potential cup of coffee. I got out and walked around anyway, dressed as usual in pants, a baseball hat and THREE SHIRTS like always regardless of weather. It was disgusting out, I got a few good pictures and then drove up and down the stretch of Route 66 looking for a place to get coffee, heading back to my hotel defeated and thinking I would just hit the gas station across the street for a nice hot cup of coffee. As I was pulling up there was literally a coffee shop RIGHT NEXT TO MY HOTEL. Nice small place run by a bunch of women with Oklahoma accents, regulars streaming in and out as I sat there for an hour or so reading the paper. This is the stuff. I often make jokes or comments about people and I think people get the wrong idea. I made some jokes about people in certain areas of the country and my friends would jump all over it. The reality of it is, at least with me. I don’t judge people, ever. I joke about them, but I don’t know, these people out here, living their lives and doing their thing while I pass through and have a brief friendly interaction, there’s nothing better than seeing that. I could sit on the internet all day and make fun of people from Texas or Dave Grohl, or I could just go out and live my life and ignore people that are a detriment to my life, and embrace the different people everywhere. I don’t have to agree with their opinions on religion or politics but I find nothing wrong with experiencing people from all walks of life. If you can’t appreciate that or don’t understand that I don’t think I’d actually get along with you in real life. Anyway, Oklahoma.


I went back to the room and wrote some of that stuff there, read a little and then went back out when the sun went down. I wanted something “light” so I found some fast food taco place called Taco Bueno and got some tacos which I barely finished while what I learned was the pilot episode of “Friends” played on my muted TV. Tomorrow I will go to Texas, meet some friends in Austin and stay there for a couple days. I’ve never been and am excited to see familiar people and see the city itself. So far, splitting up the trip like this. Spend a couple days by myself, see people, drive by myself is working. I am fine by myself, and always have been. There’s really nobody I would ever take on one of these trips in the car for multiple days. I need the headspace, and after this Austin stop the rest of the trip is my favorite part of the country, the desert: New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. I’ll be alone for that and it gets desolate. I love it and I can’t wait to experience it, take pictures and talk about it. Unless I die or am kidnapped. If that’s the case this will be the final installment of this series. I should be okay though, I’m scary looking.

This Mid-Life Crisis Isn’t Gonna Suck Itself (Boston, MA to Rolla, MO)


May 29, 2015 – Akron, Ohio

I realized today the worst thing about driving across country is operating an automobile. Seeing things you’ve never seen before, talking to strangers for a minute or two, reporting back to friends and family are all great things. The basic operation and maintenance of the car and making sure you don’t crash into anything or anyone else crashes into you though, that’s my least favorite part. Worrying about if the car is going to break down, if you’re going to run out of gas, if someone is going to break into it and steal all your stuff. Anything revolving around the car, the very tool you use to carry you across the interstates and small highways drives me into an insecurity nightmare. Thankfully it only lasts for a few minutes. My head is in a good place I think. I should back up though.

 Leaving this time was the hardest. I’ve done this “move” twice before (okay, one and a half times) and neither times it stuck. I feel like this time I don’t really have a choice but to make it work. I’ll make it work. I need to sleep before I get into this.

June 1, 2015 – Rolla, MO

I can’t get too sentimental on this trip especially now, exactly 1551 miles into it, which is essentially halfway there. I can use a good amount of commas. Leaving New England again was bittersweet. The last few weeks there were particularly physically and mentally exhausting. I try to hide that stuff as much as I can as I don’t really feel like strangers or even casual friends need to know what I’m feeling at all times, or even every once in a while; this subject kind of came up yesterday in St Louis with my friend Mike. I’ve somehow invented some sort of persona on the internet that is certainly not me. I’m hardly a grumpy person (although I did just secretly wish every single person ever involved with Bank of America would die tomorrow night) but I guess it makes people laugh. Perhaps they are all grumpy and feel like they can relate to that person. It’s something I always have a little hard time with. First world problems, really. Who cares about this stuff, let’s talk about travel, where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going.

 Although it’s only been a few days into this trip I feel like this has been the best one so far. This being the sixth time I’ve done this drive by myself I’ve learned some things throughout the years of how to do this the right way, at least for myself. The one major thing is to improvise each day. Well, at least have a skeleton or idea of where you want to go and then just see what happens. There are a number of places I definitely wanted to see and things I wanted to do. One of them I wasn’t able to do yesterday logistically (go on one of those riverboats on the Mississippi) but it worked out, the day turned out great. Back to that in a minute though. I decided early on that if I saw one of those signs saying something was off an exit and it was in a reasonable distance, free, and remotely interesting I would stop it. I imagine for most people “World’s Largest Windchime” doesn’t sound that interesting, but I guess it beats the drive to work every morning, or going into the same coffee shop every day and seeing the same faces. That stuff is all great and everything but these kinds of stops, mixed with real “big stuff” like The Grand Canyon, The Alamo, etc fill in the empty spaces and break up the monotony of the long stretches. I’m not on any kind of schedule. As a forty-five year old man with no job or prospective job I guess I should probably be a little more responsible and have a schedule and idea of what I’m doing with my future but, this middle crisis isn’t gonna suck itself. Wait, is that the saying?

 My first day driving was long, I made it to Ohio at dusk and settled into a cheap but nice room up on a hill surrounded by malls and chain restaurants. As far as where I stay every night this is where I want to stay. It feels “safe” to me which I only really care about because EVERY FUCKING THING I OWN IS IN MY CAR. Granted I am taking the three bags into the room every night that have anything I would be upset about if stolen, but I feel like I’m better off than staying in the middle of a big city or somewhere dark and secluded. I felt like that first day I could have driven a couple more hours but I don’t like driving at night at this point, and even though most of the country off the interstates isn’t that exciting, especially east of the Mississippi, I don’t want to miss anything. I had dinner and discovered that Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home was nearby. I plugged it into the GPS (oh yeah, GPS. I decided early on I would not use the GPS for “general driving” I feel like you end up looking at it ticking away and if you put any destination in it you spend time in your head too much going “oh fuck, another 97 miles” the route is pretty easy, and with simple math you can figure out how long it’s going to take and that kind of thing. As long as I never go “east” I feel like I’m safe) his address and drove over there. It was pretty uneventful but I did feel a slightly creepy vibe in general but that was mainly because I was just thinking of the kinds of things he did not because I believe in “evil powers” or “bad vibes” and shit like that.

Earlier in the day I stopped in Elmira, NY, I had never even heard of it A friend let me know there was Mark Twain history here and I located the Mark Twain Study, which was basically a little enclosed gazebo type thing that he would write and smoke cigars in. The vibe in there was more my type of thing. I mean there was no vibe or feeling I felt other than just “wow he was in here and wrote ______ here” which to me is pretty heavy. That’s the kind of stuff I enjoy most. Being somewhere someone famous once stood or did something years before.

I drove to Effingham, IL next which has been a stop every trip I’ve taken out here. At first I stopped here because of a sneaker outlet here, buying sneakers. Even once arriving too late and staying overnight so I could go in the morning. I did go in there this trip but did not buy anything. I don’t really need any more sneakers at this point as there are literally pairs in my car that I bought there in 2009 that I have never worn. NEVER WORN EVER. The drive to Effingham got pretty intense with rain to the point where I had to almost pull over to the side of the road but I fought through it and kept driving at a slow speed with my hazards on as others were doing. Visibility was about a car length.

Yesterday I went to St Louis again. I’ve now stopped here three times. The first time I went under the arch in the museum there, took pictures of the river and the arch and then drove on. The second time I met up with my friend Mike who lives there. I arrived late in the afternoon and we had dinner and he gave me a great tour of the city in his car. I was struck by how much I dug the place. This time, yesterday we planned ahead to see a baseball game. Mike is a diehard Cardinals fan and knows more about baseball than most people I know. The Cardinals would be playing the Dodgers, my favorite team as a kid. With me moving to Los Angeles we both acknowledged the light symbolism of that. Mike lives in this great neighborhood that kind of reminds me of where Cambridge and Somerville meet. I arrived a couple hours before the game, we drove down and found a cheap parking space ($5.00) as we were a little close to game time to get a free spot on the street. The walk to and from the game was great. Mike knows so much history of the city, names of all the buildings, what was there before, what is happening there in the future and everything in between. His passion and deep love for his city is intense and inspiring to me. And what a beautiful city, we saw some truly amazing architecture. I took some photos but like most large things like buildings it’s hard to capture it in a photo unless you’re a professional, which I am not. Busch Stadium was great; it’s nice to be at a field surrounded by passionate fans of the game. We sat until about the eight inning and then toured the rest of the park. The rest of the afternoon was spent touring the city with Mike giving me an amazing tour. Again his enthusiasm and knowledge of all things St. Louis is wonderful. I’ve always said I thought people having “circumstantial pride” in something like where they were born or their heritage didn’t hold much merit to me, but I feel like I’ve changed my attitude on that. You can have pride in your background and where you’re from and not be an asshole about it. That’s great if you think say, Miami Florida is the best place in the world and everywhere else sucks but you sound like an asshole. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here. Well I do, but I need to get back in the car shortly. The one thing that stuck with me as I left Mike’s house was something he said “These experiences are the marrow of life” and it’s so true. Mike and I met online via what I’m doing right here, blogging. Years ago, in 1999 or 1998 maybe. We’ve remained friends since and having the ability to spend a few hours and have these real deep conversations and experiences with friends while in the midst of this big life change I’m going through makes it all worth it.

Okay, I’m on Route 66 in Missouri now and need to forget the disgusting hotel breakfast I had this morning and get back out there. I’ll post more pictures on the next entry.

Strangers on a Train

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August 2014: Both of these previously pieces were posted here, I’ve put them together as one long piece here, separated into two stories about journeys I took by train. One from 1990 just after I turned 20 (Boston to San Francisco) and one from 2009 right before I turned 40 (Oklahoma City to Boston) after reading an article in Vice about travel by train I think has some good points but mostly is the opposite of my experiences I’ve had traveling by train.

July, 2009 – Oklahoma City, OK to Boston, MA

 

I caught a train out of Oklahoma City early Tuesday morning for a brief four hour journey south to Ft Worth, Texas. The night before I left, I slept about two and a half hours. Monday night. The next time I would go to sleep would be Thursday night/Friday Morning around 3:30 AM.

 

The double-decker train was an empty train, a pleasure compared to the rest of the trip which was back to back full trains. Arriving in Ft Worth it was hot as piss outside and although as the case with most train stations it was a shady area of town, I only got approached by one guy asking for change to “buy an ice cream”. I hate having tons of change in my pockets especially if I am going to be sitting for long periods of time I handed him a handful of dimes and pennies and he made his way into the train station and did indeed come out a few minutes earlier with an ice cream. Who doesn’t love an honest beggar? I would also meet an honest beggar in Chicago who asked for money for “The Jack Daniels Foundation”, I of course gave him a crisp dollar bill. I did quite a bit of writing on the trains, and since I didn’t really have a full night of sleep over three days some of it made no sense. Here is some of it:

 

“6. If enemies are not close. You will automatic win any battle. For I will move far from.”

 

“When I reach California I will burn this book finally. Words in here from 1992. Some guy in 1992 wrote about long forgotten women. Such messy writing that I purposely used so no one could read it if they found. Who knows who all of these spirits are in here, I can’t imagine I will ever need to refer back to this to improve anything in my life. I will throw this book in a barrel. Like in Repo Man when they have the ‘Plate-o-shrimp’ conversation. You know, like dudes under bridges in Los Angeles burning shit in barrels. Having a couple of beers”

 

“Feel like I will start seeing things any minute now. I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in whateveramountofdays now. I feel like ripping this map in front of me into a trillion little pieces. I stare at it and the schedule for hours. Not minutes, hours. This is all you can do here sit and wait sit and wait sit and wait. People are off sleeping, sweating and smelling up that car back there. This thick warm bad breathy hospital silence lit by a thin strip of lights on the ceiling as you sway to the back of each car trying not to bump heads and legs spilling into the aisle. You get good at this acrobatic feat by the end of the trip. Even in the shape I am in, like if I tried to operate heavy machinery, it would not be pretty. I can’t believe that this trip take 24 fucking hours to get from Chicago to Boston. It sounds like some sort of trap the Gods of confusion set. Let’s make this guy think something is true that isn’t true. Wait, what? Some moments here I blink my eyes but they don’t re-open. I enjoy sitting in these cars writing even though I just saw stars while writing that last sentence. I saw an Amish woman at a pay phone at the Chicago train station”

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The first half of this trip was pretty depressing for the most part. The second half I met a number of people that I spent a good amount of time with and finally as painfully tiring the trip was I felt like I was having a good time and was able to keep my mind in other places other than where it actually was. This first group of people I saw for a couple of days walking around and hanging together. A young man about 22, but maybe younger. Big tall, could be menacing, but a baby face. At least 6’ 4”. Also, had one leg and was on a crutch. There were two other girls, around the same age. One was a nerdy looking girl, glasses with a jeweled chain on them to hang from her neck whatever those are called I have no idea. Other girl seemed young and sheltered, kind of an unfortunate look that I won’t go into but let us say she kind of looked like this bass player from a Canadian rock band I won’t mention the name of. I kind of got the vibe that this girl was sort of a pain in the ass and these other kids did not like her. When I did meet the three of them, at the end of my trip to Chicago, or about four hours left in that journey they were mean to her. Right to her face. The young girl did not understand sarcasm and was getting ruined and not knowing it. I felt kind of bad and then remembered this is how young kids are, they judge and judge and pick on and pick on until they eventually settle in on some set of standards which is: Be a dick. Don’t be a dick. I picked the latter when it was my time. On the other hand, these other two, the nerdy white girl who did in fact know things about Star Trek and asked me “is that Gandalf?” regarding a tattoo on my arm seemed to have been around, and this kid with one leg. He was writing in some little notebook. At first when I saw him I said to myself “jeez, fucking trench coat mafia over here”. Same sort of reaction you have if you see like a Juggalo (or the more rare but better Jugallete!). You always say to yourself “Oh yup a juggallo…where’s the hatchet man thingy? Oh yup there it is on his thing there, does he have the…oh yeah there’s that thing too they all have.” And then you go on wondering what Insane Clown Posse even sound like and wondering why people hate ICP fans. There is clearly not one good reason to care about these people good or bad is there? This kid though, here I am judging him the second I see him, meanwhile I looked like an even bigger asshole on a number of occasions from age 10 to say age….39 so yeah. He was a nice kid, the nerdy girl was nice but I could see was a little too “oh my god I am in art school, check me out” for me. The annoying young girl would be on my next train from Chicago to Boston. She was going to Ohio somewhere with her mom. These people looked like they stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie. The girl may have been annoying, but was 18 and probably never left the little town in Arizona she was from. She sat with me on the next train in the lounge car while a line of folks waited for food, coffee and drinks. She was very loud and told me a story of some young kid who ran his car into a metal fence at her school and blah blah blah eventually winding her way to September 11th somehow telling me in an un-ironic way “now that is a day I will NEVER forget”. I replied, “well yeah, you’re not supposed to forget that day”. She mentioned they had it on the television at her school when it happened and I told her we had a similar situation when I was in high school when the space shuttle with Christa McAuliffe blew up. She said “was that Apollo 13?”. I said “I’m not that old, jeez”. The whole time the line of people can hear every word of this painful conversation until finally she leaves and people stop looking at me and having eye-rolling contests with me. I never saw her again.

 

I met some interesting artists and musicians later in the evening, a tall pretty girl from Portland, Oregon originally from New Hampshire. We both thought we looked familiar but I think she was much younger which leads me to believe we probably do not know each other at all. I talked with her and these two artists from the Oakland area, one also played guitar and trombone with Citizen Fish. Very cool down to earth people I enjoyed shooting the shit with for a few hours.

 

The last day of the trip my head and body were gone. I spent the better part of the day dozing off for a few seconds here and a few seconds there. I probably looked like I was on drugs. The last time I felt semi-normal on this part of this journey was for my long layover in Chicago where I left the station, went to the Sears Tower, shot up the elevator but the lines were too long for the deck so I just went back to the lobby and had steak and some sangria before heading back to a Starbucks to charge my phones and then back to the station to wait. It was nice not moving back and forth on a train. Had a couple of good phone calls and then back to hell.

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The evening is when I met these folks above. The next day, the last day where I never even attempted to go to sleep until I eventually reached the critical/best point of being exhausted the “now I’m completely wired and don’t even know what it feels like to be tired”. From around noon on the last day until we arrived in Boston around 10:30 PM I was wired. I spent about three or four hours with this African-American woman maybe in her early 50’s. She was a writer and also a minister . We talked about life for a long time and it was great. She was an intense person and we connected on all sorts of subjects. One of those people you meet along the way that gives off a cool vibe. She has a book available online that I am going to check out. One thing I enjoy about taking these trains is you are trapped on this thing with these people and you are kind of forced to talked to them for hours at a time as long as they are willing to do the same. Most of the time it turns out to be a great conversation. As I was saying to the woman “everyone’s story is interesting on some level. If they have the gift to tell a story then that story is even better”

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I spent the remainder of the day with a guy named Dennis. He was from Milwaukee and was heading to Dorchester to see his mother who was sick. Dennis, turning 50 drives a tractor trailer, and has been with the same woman for I think he said twenty-six years. He kind of looked like Snoop Dogg, which I’m sure he would take as an insult as he told me he didn’t like rap music. He had some great stories of driving trucks in different parts of the country. We both mentioned different parts of the country we enjoyed seeing. He clearly has more miles on me and more states but I feel like I have enough experience to talk about a number of places in the US anyway. One thing I really like with sitting with some of these strangers for hours is how much you can learn about people if they are willing to tell stories and are as bored as you are with just sleeping in your seat all day. So hanging with him until the last few minutes of the journey was great as we were still swapping stories about areas of Massachusetts. Good times indeed. There were a number of other people I spent some time with but most of them weren’t as interesting or were kind of messed up.

Best part of this trip was probably the last couple of days. It was a long mentally and physically exhausting trip that I still haven’t fully absorbed. If anything it was an exercise in patience and a preview of the lengths of road I have to travel myself in August. I forgot how long some of these drives get. A three hour chunk of driving through nowhere has the feel of a five hour chunk of driving. The August trip has an ultimately happier ending for the most part, and I will have a laptop by then for documenting that trip as I go with hopefully less stream of conscious than this, which I am not even going to proofread. Here it is.

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February 1990 Boston, MA to San Francisco, CA

 

So I get on this train in South Boston and I’m immediately feeling elated to be leaving and seeing parts of the country I had never seen. I was a painfully shy person, but being on a train for four days straight will make even the most timid person a “life of the party”. I think we were maybe two hours into the trip and we stopped in Springfield, Massachusetts. The train was relatively empty, and I was lucky enough to score two seats, so I could sit at the window. In Springfield the train sort of filled up and I see this character walking down the aisle. About five feet tall, cowboy boots, denim jeans, a denim jacket, long black “ZZ Top beard”, and sunglasses (it’s 9:30PM in the dead of winter), a duffel bag in one hand, and a guitar slung around his shoulder. I of course make eye contact with him, and he immediately sits down next to me.

 

“HOW YA DOIN BUDDY, I’M JIM (I can’t remember his name at this point), WHERE YOU GOIN!!?”

 

“Ummmm, San Francisco.”

 

“WELL IT LOOKS LIKE WE’RE TRAVELING TOGETHER, I’M GOING TO DENVER!!!”

 

“Excellent”

 

Yeah, real excellent.

 

So he starts talking and doesn’t shut up about music and traveling. It was interesting, but his voice, and overall demeanor made it a little hard to take him serious. The best part was yet to come though.

 

“YOU LIKE VODKA???”

 

“No, I don’t really drink at all”

 

“WELL IF YA DO, I GOT PLENTY”

 

He opens his jacket and has two fifths in each inside pocket of the jacket, two nips in each breast pocket, opens his duffel bag, and he literally, no joke, had a little bit of clothing, and what looked like 6 more bottles of vodka. I got up and went to the restroom, and he showed up in there.

 

“OH THERE YOU ARE, HEY YOU WANT A SWIG OF THIS OR WHAT????”

 

“No really, I’m all set”

 

So we get to Albany and I know what I have to do. I knew that we would be switching trains in Chicago in the morning, but I really couldn’t deal with him anymore. I got out of the train and went into the station and asked if I could get a room for the night on the train. It would be eighty bucks. I forked down the money and got my upgraded ticket.

 

I went back in and told “Jim” that they fucked up, my ticket stated I was to be in another train. A likely story, as anyone who knows Amtrak, you buy a cheap ticket, you sit wherever the fuck you want. I went to my room, and it was literally about the size of a stall in a restroom…okay the handicapped stall (which begs the question I often ask myself when I perpetually use the handicapped stall, can I get arrested for using this, or get a ticket? I mean it does seem to me the same crime as parking in one of the handicapped spaces, but the room in there is great, you get those railings in case you’re sick, drunk, or handicapped; it’s a whole new world in there. I imagine the women’s room to have a similar affect on me if I was to ever walk in a “good one”[as opposed to the one I was in at Saratoga Springs, New York, which was so dirty I thought I was in the men’s room]). It was tiny nonetheless, enough room to stand, and fold down the bed which was right against the window.

 

Waking up in Ohio the next morning was an absurd feeling. Ohio. Who lives in Ohio? Guided By Voices. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and ummmm…some other people that apparently love corn. So Ohio is pretty boring…on the train at least. I won’t ever just say a state is boring if I haven’t stepped on the soil there. Driving through Nebraska is as boring as watching ice melt, but when you get out and walk around a little, late, in the middle of a chilly, damp night you realize there’s nothing like it in the world. Nebraska.

 

So we arrive in Chicago, where you get to get on the double decker train. Much bigger, much more exciting. I still hadn’t seen “Jim”, but I was aware we was around. I did see him in the middle of the night actually for a couple of minutes at the bar (“why is he buying drinks with all that he has on him?”…I figured it out, he was just making his drinks even stronger, that’s apparently what you do or something when you’re a big drinker. Up the ante a little). The next time I saw him was in Denver where he was getting off. I went up to him and, knowing he was getting off for good and said:

 

“Hey Jim, I was looking for you the past day and a half to see if you wanted to hang out, we were supposed to be traveling together and all that…well, hopefully I’ll run into you again…have a good life”

 

It’s funny, all of the people I met on that first train ride it always ended with “Have a good life” What a strange departing phrase. There was no internet, well, not that I was using anyway, so there was no e-mail exchanging, and I was certainly not going to write anyone letters. I met a lot of great people. The most memorable after “Jim”, were the two old black men from Mississippi who got me drunk and told me stories about segregation, and John Lee Hooker and that kind of stuff. I have an amazing picture of one of the men reading the newspaper at dawn that I will post on here some day when I remember to scan it.

 

The other guy was an African fellow who was with me from Denver to San Francisco. He didn’t speak very good English, and he had a ton of money. He owned farms, had a big family, and traveled the world from time to time. Sam was his name. When we got to San Francisco, neither of us had been there before so we sort of hung out for a little while, until we got our shit together. I took a good photo of him at the San Francisco train station that I’d also like to put up here. I love meeting new people. I especially love it when I’m traveling though. You can’t really rely on small talk at all. You don’t have to make impressions though either. I like to put on an act from time to time when I meet people traveling. “Yeah, I’m a policeman in Boston” So this first trip was the first of a dozen of these, most of them small ones with friends, but I did three summers where it was two week excursions by myself that were both healthy, and bad for me at the same time. I had this a little on the first trip.

 

The train ride home got tedious. “Shit, Indiana again”

 

For subsequent summers, I will probably not be going on the same type of excursions though. There are no tours to follow around at my age. I am going to go somewhere though.. Either way, I need it again, and it can’t come any fucking sooner. That’s it, I’m going across country again.

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North Carolina to Pittsburgh in Seven Hours

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I took one good long look at the rug of the hotel lobby, and realized I would be in for, at the very least, an interesting stay.

“Sir,”

She broke my concentration

“Your room is around the back, 113. Enjoy your stay.”

“Thanks” I replied and walked out into the thick pea soup air.

August was a hot month for North Carolina. I had already withstood a week of this nasty hot weather, but today was extra brutal. I walked by the pool on the way to my room and noticed an old white-as-a-ghost man sitting by the pool. We both made eye contact, and then broke when a young boy jumped into the pool screaming something unintelligible.

The smell of a new motel room is always nice, like a new car. After the stale ashtray of my car’s interior, any new smell is always greeted with a pleasant sigh. One time, I was in Pittsburgh, or rather outside of Pittsburgh. My reservation should have been changed weeks before, but I didn’t, so I stayed in some small blue collar town with all kinds of factories and Ford trucks, and men with mustaches, and white people with nice SUV’s and black people with dirty sidewalks, and fast food restaurants filled with acne covered Puerto Rican boys. This was the epitome of traveling to me. The people who lived in these towns I passed through. The people that live and breathe the towns always make me feel unwelcome. “People watching” is a favorite way to pass time when I have time between travel days.

So I’m in this outskirt of Pittsburgh and I show up at this run down motel that is in between a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a McDonalds, and about nine hundred other generic signs burned into your brain. I get the key to my room. Before I even open the door, I am greeted with an odor that makes me practically gag. It’s the smell of a room that apparently had someone smoke maybe a carton of cigarettes (in a row) in a room with an air conditioner blasting (with a dirty filter). Not wanting to deal with this for more than five more minutes I did what any smart traveler would do, I fumigated the room with steam. This was a trick I learned…that day. “Improvisational fumigation” I turned the shower, as well as the sink on full blast and turned the heat all the way up on both of them. The steam started pouring out of the bathroom swiftly. First little puffs of steam here and there, until eventually I had the Iron Maiden stage set (during the pre Bruce Dickinson era, Killers [Paul D’ianno, vocals] tour of course. As later tours seemed to have specific themes, like the Egyptian/Graveyard mood on the Powerslave tour, or the Blade Runneresque Somewhere In Time tour. The room started to get unbearably hot, so I opened the door, with a good weeks worth of facial hair, and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth to discover a family loading into the room next to me. I made eye contact and said hello to the wife first, the young daughter, and then to the father, as what must have looked like a scene from a Fellini film took place behind me, and eventually around me. Smoke and steam can have a cool effect sometimes. If used in an original manner such as greeting a family from Connecticut in the midst of trying to fumigate your room from the smell of cigarette smoke (while yourself smoking), one feels like some sort of character. The smell did eventually go away, and I never saw the family again the rest of my stay.

I rested easy that night, as the stench was gone, and in a day or two, Pittsburgh would be a dim memory for me.

Back to North Carolina.

I get to my room and it smells wonderful.

“That new car smell!” I think to myself.

I throw the television on as usual, and go outside to get the rest of my stuff. A suitcase full of clothes, clean and dirty, a messenger bag filled with notebooks and journals filled with bad art, and worse memories, three CD cases filled with a total of 500 CD’s, and my trusty boom box. I can’t sleep in the dead silence, as my ears ring all the time and it keeps me awake, so I lull myself to sleep with anything from Miles Davis to Black Sabbath. Heavy metal is easy to go to sleep to actually. I set up the boom box and throw in the Duke Ellington trio CD (definitely one of the best things the Duke ever did in my humble opinion. With Charles Mingus and Max Roach rounding out the rhythm section, how can you get a better trio than that?) and immediately skipped to Caravan (track 8, which when one looks at the history of Track 8’s from tons of releases, you’ll see the attraction to this sacred home in album sequencing history, check it out: Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World: seven tracks before getting to the title track, Van Morrison gives us the beautiful When That Evening Sun Goes Down eight tracks in on Tupelo Honey, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds boasts (arguably) the greatest song they did in God Only Knows eight tracks in, my favorite track on the brilliant Stones Exile on Main Street, Sweet Black Angel is guess what, track eight. Even the Beatles knew what they were doing when they put the creepy Happiness is a Warm Gun 8 tracks in on the White Album. The Smashing Pumpkins Gish offers the listener Tristessa at number eight, T-Rex gives us Telegram Sam eight tracks into The Slider. This is obviously not an accident. Track 8 will be revered for years to come as the key spot to hook the listener and make a classic record just that, a classic record. One example of this not happening is on the seminal Replacements record Let it Be, where the weakest track on the record Seen Your Video is erroneously given the coveted track 8 spot. The albums best song actually opens the record as I Will Dare, or arguably opens “side two” with My Favorite Thing. There are good arguments for both songs. I Will dare boasts the best pop hook in the history of guitar playing this side of You Really Got Me, where My Favorite Thing presumably filled thousands of mix-tapes throughout the eighties. Both are great songs regardless.), one of my favorite songs of all time, made most famous by Dizzy Gillespie. I turned the volume down on the television set and started to fade off.

I dreamt of this big mountain I was driving on. It felt like I was driving for hours as my eyeballs felt like dry golf balls whatever that means. I was hot in the car as I drove down this huge mountain, and it surrounded me. There was mist and fog along the sides of the mountain that made it impossible to see how high up I was. My ears were filled with hot air. I felt all of this vividly in this dream. Perhaps it was the actual long hours I had been driving in reality, mixed with a steady diet of caffeine, nicotine, and THC I was living on for days that made me have such rich, alive dreams. So I’m on this thing driving not really knowing where I’m supposed to be going in the dream. Just following everyone else for the most part. Everyone is going just fast enough to make it uncomfortable, and unsafe. I feel like I am going to drive off the mountain. In the dream I am with someone else, they sit in the back seat, each time I look in the rear view mirror to see them they turn their head away so I can’t see their face. They sometimes obscure their face without turning their head confusing me even more, as I try to concentrate on gravity and speed at the same time. I picture the car driving off of the side of the mountain into the woods. Traveling at speeds well over one hundred miles an hour, this is a very real vision within a dream. I picture the car tumbling violently over jagged rocks and tree branches breaking, and the contents of my car being thrown around like balls in one of those bingo things. I picture myself landing though, and walking away from the car. Nobody is in the back seat. A bunch of broken picture frames and empty coffee cups litter the area in and around the car. I manage to get the crushed trunk open with the help of a piece of the bumper (?) and retrieve my most coveted possession, the boom box, and the CD’s. I start walking through the barren woods, knowing well I can’t climb back up the valley and make it to the highway above. I go through the CD’s and find Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and put it in the boom box and begin my descent into the woods.

I awaken to what sounds like someone hammering nails into a giant aluminum silo. I look out the window, and the father from the family is actually packing things into his car. I can’t figure out what he was doing to make such a racket, but I keep investigating. Pretty soon the mother, followed by the daughter come out of the room and start talking to the father. What looks like an argument turns into a kiss on the cheek from both women as they leave the parking lot and walk towards the gas station across the street.

The family is a foreign thing to me. I can’t really imagine what kind of things go with being a family person. Here I am traveling around the country in my car to amuse myself. I have a ton of money to just waste on nothing but rare blues records and cigarettes, and this guy probably has an agenda each day. “Today we need to leave the hotel room at seven in the morning so we can make our way to Hershey Park by noon. At ten o’clock this evening we will go to dinner at this restaurant I found in the travel book. This is what will go down. This is how my family will spend their vacation” Me, I’m showing up in these towns and cities and grabbing the yellow pages and looking for used record stores, book stores, and whatever else to look at along the way.

I close the drapes in the room and walk over to the boom box, The Ellington CD probably stopped playing 7 hours ago. I press the play button and crawl back into my seven thirty in the morning bed hoping to hit the town later in the day. Wondering how I fell asleep in North Carolina and woke up back in Pittsburgh.DSC02435

I Went to Baltimore

As a general rule I like to travel by myself. Having traveling companions always slows you down. For the most part I like to observe things and report back instead of enjoying them with others. Thankfully my travel companions on this trip understand this as I’ve managed to do my own thing for the majority of this trip.

Two of us left early on Thursday morning to come to Baltimore, Maryland for a festival of basically all metal and metal related bands. Four days of music. Loud music. I love this shit. Well, not as much as the kids here toughing it out for every second of it, but I love this music and scene. The drive down was pretty uneventful. I messed up somewhere and missed the Tappan Zee Bridge and ended up pretty much on 95 for the majority of the drive, which is a pretty bland stretch of travel. Maybe because I have done the drive so many times it’s just become a boring background for the trip to somewhere better. Somewhere like Baltimore. Wait, Baltimore? Is this place any good?

Standing alone in crowds at shows, sporting events, anywhere. When people are behind me I imagine they are all watching me. Every single one of them freezes me in my footsteps. The second night there I wanted to turn around and go get a drink and stood there for ten minutes thinking it over until finally turning around, head down, avoiding eye contact and making my way to the bar to get a soda. It’s worse than it ever has been nowadays. Social anxiety. Yesterday I never went to the festival at all, catching a baseball game, and retiring to the room at 7:00, cutting off the outside world. Well, aside from attempting to be funny on the Internet and posting pictures here and there. I did this back home a few weeks ago as well, buying a ticket to see the Bad Brains after looking for months for one, going through some hoops to get one. The night of the show, drove by the venue and realized there was no way I could make it inside there so I just went home and ate the $30 I spent on the ticket. My passion for music, seeing it live, creating it, caring about it in general is pretty low at this point anyway.

Baltimore is indeed pretty good. The architecture here is pretty great. I’m staying in downtown, a mere five-minute walk up and down a hill to the venue. The walk back to the hotel is the only problem as it’s up a hill and I’m in horrible shape.  The other night on the way down to the show, near the venue I saw what looked like half of a joint on the ground. When I left hours later I remembered where it was and picked it up and it turned out to be a rolled cigarette. Well, I figured this out by lighting it and attempting to smoke it and then coughing pretty hard. Yeah I did that. Walking around the city as a white minority is refreshing and makes me feel like I’m in Los Angeles where being a white person you’re also a minority.

Out of however many bands are at this festival I’ve watched about five bands that I am a fan of. Metal fans are a dedicated lot, and the passion and love these kids put into just being metal heads is pretty intense. It reminds me of how it was in the 80’s when I was like that. The two best bands I saw were Eyehategod and Today is the Day, the rest is a blur of “yeah that was cool’s” but nothing I could write a trillion word essay about. I’ve been more interested in taking some photos than writing about music. Tonight is the last night of music and we are heading out tonight, rather than dealing with driving home on Memorial Day from Baltimore to Boston. I can usually do late night drives pretty well, especially if someone is with me. If I never update this blog again, it’s because I fell asleep at the wheel and went over a bridge.

Leaving Cleveland

Leaving Cleveland at dawn to come back here

A creepy dark blue and bloody sky leads me home

Black Sabbath as loud as daytime

A perfect hour or so with them

The drive grows much more quiet after that

Arriving here wondering

What was the right decision?

When will the next one of these decisions be made?

I hate this fucking place so much

But obviously I love it even more

There is nothing but everything ever here really

After however many stops and go’s

I can stop here again for now

I never feel settled anywhere

I can’t help it that I never want to sit still

It’s boring like a rock

Almost way past 4:00 AM now, every movie you have ever seen plays in my head this late at night. I am on my way to being this forever. Thinking about people and grinding my teeth reading their crap. Their attention getting devices, the men and women, all the same use the same techniques, like you somehow need to care about their problems. I can’t get behind this shit. I like a one on one deal, but these people shooting black flares into the sky with a silver gun are out of my eyesight. I don’t even look at them now. I’m not going to give that urine soaked beggar a nickel, and I’m not going to hop on the thousand wadded tissues bandwagon you helm. Get it together without us, you can do it. In the end it’s the only way. Don’t push things. They push their shit on you, their blogs and their bands and their articles and their poetry and their ideas and their opinions. Remember back when we would all go down to the beach at night and sit around a fire and talk about The Doors. Now we get news snippets about whoever got a new puppy, or pushed out a fifth child. A three second reading of the great and significant ideas of a lonely fool you haven’t seen in thirteen years. I need to get it all out of my head before I drive myself crazy with it. I get dizzy reading it all and then even dizzier when I invent what I know will exist and does. Arriving here. Meeting all of those women I spent time with. Brief five-hour interview and vibe sessions. None of them anywhere close to what I need. You spend all of this time with them and realize not only are they all crazy but you are not well either.  There’s no reason to still be doing this bullshit at however old I get before I go to bed at night. Eight trillion lonely crazy women knocking on my door while I knock on theirs trying to figure out the secret knock. I end up being an asshole nine times out of ten. Well, just because I’m funny doesn’t mean I’m a nice guy.

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