[ home | contact | archive | 2009: jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec ]


1990 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
2000 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

RARRRRRRRR!!!! Rarr rarrrr rarrr meow rarr?
RARRRRR!!! Rarr. Rarrr rarr J-List rarrrr.

2009sep11. I took a road/train trip through PA NV CO UT MI CA OH IN IL NE IA AZ WI. Travelling through large expanses of America re-acquainted me with numerous sub-cultures of which I had forgotten about, and the sheer goddamned delight of feebly scrabbling around fly-over states for acceptable foodstuffs. 2500 miles on the train, 4500 miles in the car; highest 114 degrees, lowest 53. It was sunny. Flat tire. It rained. Dead battery. Things happened. Things didn’t happen. Some random observations follow; I also updated the Travelling Cross-Country By Train page with photos and a semi-large chunk of extra text.

I now have an additional reason to non-love these places. No power outlets. They’re all capped. So no cellphone charging. No battery re-charging. No portable autoclave autoclaving. Also they have something called a “rest stop” which is not a rest area – it is a “private/public” co-whatever I didn’t read the sign. The one I went to was: (A) 2.5 miles off the freeway in the exact wrong direction (B) “Sponsored” by Chevron (C) Actually just a Chevron gas station with the standard day-glo sugardrink/HFCS fakefood store bolted on. But: one rest area had real glass mirrors, not the usual useless metal ones that do not allow me to check myself out and re-confirm that I am hotter than a thousand suns. FINAL GRADE: D

I took a lot of photos of clouds. They don’t hurt anyone and are nice. The ones in Colorado kicked all the other clouds’ asses but don’t tell them that. [sigh] I liked all the clouds in every state equally. I would like to live in the clouds but that is currently physically impossible. I wait, patiently, for science. FINAL GRADE: A+

That is some jaw-dropping visuals there, is what that is. I should live there someday. FINAL GRADE: A

I was in the Mystery Hill gift shoppe looking at all of the horrible t-shirts that weren’t of the awesome Mystery Hill arrow. I didn’t go into Mystery Hill proper. I got a call on my cellphone while I was there, but it was set to “NO BOTHERING” and the operator silently took the call and filed it in my “missed call” box. Two hours later, I listened to it. It was my friend, calling from Mystery Spot, located five hours away. He was asking if I wanted a t-shirt from the gift shoppe, which he was in, but he hadn’t/wasn’t going to visit the Mystery Spot proper. FINAL GRADE: A++

I took a Nevada logo sign survey here “for a free cold drink.” I told the guy about my Utah rest stop experience. There really wasn’t room for jazz free-form improvisation on the survey form. I had to bend my answers a lot. “Which would you rather eat at: family style or fast food?” “Uh, not fast food, and ‘family style,’ to me at least, means stay away.” [FX: pause; pen hovers silently above unchosen options] “I guess just put ‘family style.’” They’re always BOXING me in, goddammit man, BOXING ... ME ... IN. The final question: “What would you like to see listed on logo signs?” “Abandoned buildings. This way to see the gas station that’s been sitting empty for ten years.” [FX: pause] “Hahahaha, yeah, they’re not going to put that on a logo sign. Just leave it blank.” To his credit he wrote it in. The man then opened the cooler which contained many cold drinks, one of which was now mine forever. I chose the bottle with non-dayglo transparent fluid. The state partially hydrated me that day for semi-answering their broken poll. I forgot about the bottle for awhile because I had three gallons sitting in the front seat, another three in the back. If you drive anywhere in the desert without boatloads of water you are a dumb dummy who is dumb. FINAL GRADE: C-

The car I had had a radio plus a slot which I imagine was some sort of new-fangled inoperative cheese slice dispensary. Radio is still the shining jewel it has always been; it seemingly continues unaware that the last ten years have actually happened and that it’s next to obsolete. “We will play you the same 40 songs over and over and over; your personal music player holds probably ten, 20 songs at most. [SFX: Several obnoxious sound effects] KDED radio.” There is also a lot of bible-reading radio out there. I would start listening to a station thinking that I was in the middle of some noirish detective drama and after awhile realization would fold over my brain like a warm blanket, smothering it. 300 miles later I’d forget what I learned and the loop would repeat. I also heard a few horrible pop song fragments repeatedly, it was like I owned them already in my head for free and didn’t have to buy the record at the store. It was PIRACY OF THE MIND. FINAL GRADE: D

I saw a shooting star. In Iowa. FINAL GRADE: A++

There was a huge traffic jam on the other side of the freeway. A truck had fallen on its side because it was sleepy. There was also a service truck there that was righting it; somehow they place bags under the truck and inflate the bags. It made me laugh for approximately ten miles. “Inflatable ... BAG ... hahahaha” FINAL GRADE: A-

I got my crispy car quota for the trip filled when I eyeballed a completely charred car carrier on the side of the freeway with a full load of also-charred cars. It was a trend. “Dude, seriously, everyone is doing this.” [FX: combusts] FINAL GRADE: D

While following this on the train, I looked longingly at the water. When driving back via car, I stopped at a really nice rest area along the river and put my hands in. Right then the same train went by and I felt sorry for everyone on board which could have included me if I time-travelled and didn’t know it. This paragraph is dedicated to them (and maybe me), the non-Colorado River touchers. FINAL GRADE: A

Vega$ is a hole. My intention was to just glance off the Northern outer crust of Vega$, and get some food and gas and get out of there before I was swallowed by a doomed housing construction project. Unfortunately I’d become real picky about my vacation eating over the last month. Pizza. Deli. Anything other than a chain shop/strip mall/Chinese (it’s hard to find a good Chinese place without electronic guidance. I did mention that I don’t have one of those goddamned Iphones, yeah? The general rule I live by is that it is very hard to screw up pizza and pancakes, and very easy to screw up Chinese). Good fucking luck in Vega$, the whole place is one big strip mall. You can find a wealth of non-familiar/non-chain gasoline stations, though. All the same, I do not wish to gas up at a business called “Funny’s.” I finally found a decent pizza shoppe in a half-dead strip mall, initially being attracted by the enticing proposition of a panederia next door which turned out to be the empty shell of a store. The first time I was feeling talkative during the trip, the pizzamakerperson is not, though I did learn that they’ve been there five months. Just go down Rancho Drive and take three rights at the 217th strip mall.

The emptiness of Vega$ is hard to explain. Photos don’t help. The streets are huge. The grid intersections are huge. All of them. Pedestrians can go die. Out on the edge of maniacal growth, I saw a traffic light with an actual left turn arrow, something that largely escaped the city’s attention back when growth was even more redlined. Glimpsing that arrow was like seeing an astronaut in an inoperative spacecraft gain inner peace as the ship hurtled helplessly toward the sun. Watch me earn the big bucks on the Las Vegas City Planning Commission: “Duh, it could be square blocks filled with shiny wholesome beige corporate shit? And it could go on forever? Wait. More lanes.”

Finally, I was in a Las Vega$ gasoline station being pitched by a dinosaur – I pulled out my wallet while walking through the store and three guys in different areas of the store had their eyes glued on it. Maybe this happens everywhere and I just had a little confirmation bias thing going on. Or maybe when the entire city you live in wants a piece of you, it does things to your head. Also there is gambling and monied sex. FINAL GRADE: E--

There are a lot of abandoned gas stations here. FINAL GRADE: B+

I had a shake at Denny’s. A lot of people had the cowboy hats. It was the only thing open. It was a small town. I like visiting small towns. I like getting the mixing cup, it’s like a bonus meal. Shakes are meals. I left. They stayed. FINAL GRADE: B

I forgot to check “don’t use toll roads” on the internet route mapping service and I ended up taking a turnpike when using a non-turnpike would have added ten miles to my trip. My mistake, but still: turnpikes are a wholly managed experience that I do not like, above/beyond the extra cost. Walk into a “service plaza,” travel 200 miles, and then walk into the same damned plaza. It’s magical and so comforting! There’s absolutely no chance of popping into a swell run-down diner or the like. In the future there will just be a single restaurant chain in America with two menu selections: FOOD and DRINK. “I’ll have one food, please. Oh, and one drink.” Sleeeeeep ... sleeeeeeeep. This ends my original essay on the homogeneity of stifling modern consumer culture. Clarice & Jasper will now hand you your complimentary gift bags. Thank you. Thank you. FINAL GRADE: D-

I used to creatively crop photos in-camera to remove all traces of civilization from nature-type shots. Now I make sure they’re in there. It was like lying ... to myself. Such a self-liar.

You find out the funniest things when you visit your family. I would have missed out on a few experiences had that happened. Like the time I did that thing? No, wait, I’m thinking of someone else. FINAL GRADE: C-

I like roundabouts; several have been popping up in my “home state” and elsewhere. The problem here is that Americans are too stressed out trying to score the last few bucks from a system about to fall on its face. The merry-go-round goes faster and faster and then you encounter a traffic calming agent that is shaped like a merry-go-round and well, I don’t blame you for not following the directions and smashing into someone else, really. Actually yes I do. You suck at driving. Chill out. FINAL GRADE: A-

Two trucks tangled on a reduced-lane highway in the rain; one truck went left, the other, right. The highway was elevated, so they both plunged into giant ditches. The one on the left went straight and came to a stop; the one on the right jack-knifed which tore up a section of the container. Jack-knifing: trucks still do it. FINAL GRADE: D

Sometimes when I stretch I end up grabbing one finger of one hand with the other and I torque it while stretching and one day I’ll probably accidentally break it. FINAL GRADE: C-

Yosemite is always spectacular, but this time I also wanted to drop into the valley and hit their cafeteria, since I had been on an oatmeal/fruit tear for way too long. A dynamite gal at that ever-growing Lee Vining convenience store/gas station told me that the valley was closed because they were running a managed fire. Bad timing. FINAL GRADE: A-

Two ravens flew past me, about 20 feet in the air. I could hear that one of the pair had squeakier wings than the other. Age? Oil? I do not know, but it was the first and probably last time I’ll hear something like that. Divine. FINAL GRADE: A+

Every time I go to Yosemite they’re always standing outside the camp store yammering about how they’re going to tackle Half Dome using only their sense of smell and two straightened fishing hooks for hands and they’ve got all the latest nano-resistant Totalflex™ Shimmerpodjam® gear strapped to them in dynamic places and you walk by them feeling like a cigarette snuffed out in a plate of scrambled eggs but secretly you want to have sex with all of them but one at a time real slow like, you’re not a sexglutton. I think they’re hired by the park to remind all of us to strive to reach our full potential, perhaps sex-wise. FINAL GRADE: B-

That was one of the themes of the trip. One time I went with friends to a tricked out open-air concert space in the deep undergrowth of Detroit with all sorts of old carnival ride signage and the like. It was an amazing place. But the MC was not good. It made me appreciate good MCs. Later some of my other friends decided that ten years was a long enough time away from multi-player cooperative games and they shanghai’d me into playing “Rock Band,” a video game in which you pretend to play instruments. It made me appreciate musicians so much more, with the notes, and getting the right notes, though these notes were fake. Conversely, apparently some musicians aren’t good at rock band because Rock Band is too precise, like a drum machine. No one should have to be a drum machine. That’s why there are drum machines. There were non-official Rock Band accessories like lasers and lights and whatnot and the light bank that was nearest to my head was moving in an arrhythmic manner, making noise that kept me off the fakebeat. Then something happened; after that, my friend got back from a break and wondered out loud why the light bank was not working anymore and I lied in some fashion. I asked my friends what the Japanese were playing now that the US has caught up to 2003 and they looked at me with stony silence. I got passable grades after awhile; then I went to a family member’s house and went back to sucking on “Rock Band"’s apparent predecessor, “Guitar Hero.” FINAL GRADE: B

First the niece tap tap tap tap then my sister BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD then back to the niece tap tap tap. It was funny. FINAL GRADE: A

This is insane. It seems to take way too long. The same two switchbacks over and over and over. Maybe I’ll grow a pair one day and take the quick way down. You know what I’m talking about. Old Crazed Syphilitic Miner Road or whatever it’s called. Following that there’s the flat-out section through Almost Yosemite. That takes three days. I don’t get it. FINAL GRADE: C

Dubuque has public wifi but you have to click on a website every hour or so. Though I am obsessed with advertising I still don’t understand how it works on people ... I would think that something like this would make you dislike the websites you have to click on, even though they’re sponsoring your porno e-glide. Active v. passive. I didn’t even notice, I left it in another tab. Also I was hangin’ out in Dubuque but all the shops had closed for the day so I didn’t get my Dubuque-oriented business taken care of at all. Dubuque. FINAL GRADE: C+

A worker bee at a Pennsylvania turnpike service plaza gave me a truck tire gauge when I asked for a tire gauge at a car-based filling station. The ticks start at 100 psi (man those are some bloated ticks) whereas your modern car tires get up to about 40 psi tops. It was big and heavy and could be used as a weapon on a train (see Travelling Cross-Country By Train). I took it to the car to have a few moments with it to wonder what it would be like to be a trucker and to express admiration, from one object to another. When I finally handed it back the worker smiled like everything was super-fine even though I said “I have a car, this is for a truck.” I think it was that thing that happens to people in the service industry wherein they’ve gone through the motions for so long they stop reading faces and listening to people or even themselves (ex: flight attendants and their garbled “in the event of a water landing” etc pre-flight safety announcements). FINAL GRADE: C

There are warning signs in Nevada that I can’t remember ever seeing: DUST HAZARD. “Dust hazard? What kind of wimpy shell of a person needs a sign warning th – OH GOD MY EYES” When you lose your vision on the road, you should gradually pull the car over and stop. After the first time, I was ready; I closed the vent as soon as I saw the sign. But it wasn’t fast enough and sand started scraping holes in my eyes again, digging in to survive the harsh desert winter. There was an exit sign as well, and a driveway coming up, but it was oddly at a right angle. Okay, that’s how they do things out here. Took the exit, careered right into what looked like a pre-staging area with lots of official signs that I could only see the outer shapes of, quickly stopped the car, splashed a gallon of water on my face. Composed myself, toweled my face off, and found myself staring at the guard shack for an Air Force Base. “Yeahhhhhhhh ... I’ll be leaving now ... ” The incident will be filed in my permanent record. I had the same dust problem a third time about an hour later, but it wasn’t as fun as this one. FINAL GRADE: D-

I got here in the middle of the night so I pulled over on the street, took out a pillow, laid back on the pavement and watched the stars for awhile. Rhyolite is the remnants of a mining town about three miles outside of Beatty. There was no one around, no sounds; I could suddenly perfectly hear all of the little whirring and clicking my camera goes through during normal operations. Occasionally I could hear an insect bullshitting another ... grasshoppers, intermittent buzzy things (“SEX! SEX! I AM HERE! TIME FOR SEX! I AM VERY GOOD AT THE SEX”). Then the sun came up and I explored the abandoned town and associated outdoor art gallery. I took a photo holding the penguin’s hand of the giant penguin & miner statue, same photo as ten years ago so I can laugh at how I’ve aged. It is a funny. The olding. FINAL GRADE: A+

Most of my time in Hershey was spent within walking distance of the Hershey factory; 50% of the time the odor of chocolate lingered in your nose. Sometimes there was a much smaller accompanying scent of puke in the air. But across the street (Chocolate Avenue) from one of the factory’s exhausts the scent was 100% Hershey Cocoa. I stood there awhile. Also I hadn’t eaten anything except oatmeal cookies/bars for two days and I went into a pizza shop (Bricker’s Ponessa Pizza and Restaurant) at 8:30pm and they were closing at 9pm so no slices and back to oatmeal. I came in the next day and ordered a slice; the owner sent over another slice free because of my unfortunate timing the previous day. I camped in a park that had an insect/frog chorus so loud I used earplugs to go to sleep. It also had fireflies which more than compensated for the Croaky McBuzzy Choir. FINAL GRADE: B

When I was last here the parking lot was for a casino which had been renamed. This is my guess since it wasn’t “Silver Slipper Casino” anymore and there was a slipper on the sign. But the casino has magically turned into a hardware store, which means it’s twice removed from the sign so can I have it now? FINAL GRADE: A

My original intention was to “check out” this area and camp overnight, grabbing a much-needed shower. I stopped in at one of the campsites. Campsites now seem to have “hosts” which I don’t remember from back in the day but a friend has indicated this has been the procedure for awhile at campgrounds. Host: “We’re having a problem with Africanized bees right now. They are attracted to any water source. They’ve set up bubblers away from camp to help draw the bees away.” I went and grabbed a campsite, got out, and pretty much immediately a bee landed on my pants where I had spilled some water earlier. “Maybe that’s a coincidence, and in an unrelated thought, boy it’s time to go look at stuff far away from here.” I didn’t even take a shower, which was dumb at 104 degrees. I stopped at several trailheads and got about halfway down the paths, eyeballing petroglyphs and bright orange rock and sand and tafoni and striped rock and etc before turning back because it was 114 degrees out and I know my limits. I only saw one other person tackling a trail. Too hot. I got back to the visitor center and hung out under the aircon for an hour. Then I left instead of camping for several reasons. The bees came in at about 20%, heat 30%, didn’t get around to packing anything but oatmeal 30%, some other junk 20%. FINAL GRADE: A- (see me after class about the bees)

This trip reminded me there’s a lot out there that no longer makes/never made any sense to me and that jobs are getting harder to get.