Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cashier Stories and Observations, Volume One.

The Salvation Army Bell-Ringer, whom had been singing at people as they exited and entered the store's entrance, approached a boy whom I had trained alongside, whom was fresh out of high school, during our break. Tiger Woods was golfing on television, so naturally the conversation began about golf. The Bell-Ringer said that Tiger was not "right with God" because he had been unfaithful, and the boy agreed. The Bell-Ringer asked the boy's age, and whether or not he'd be going to college. The boy responded that he was the first in four generations in his family to graduate from high school, and that he currently didn't know if he'd continue on to college or not. The Bell-Ringer talked about how he didn't go to college but could have and that he's a music virtuoso who's been playing the violin since he was four. "I AIN'T JUST SOME BELL-RINGER, YOU KNOW." The Bell-Ringer then said that his nephew has been going to college for a long time, and that "after a while, they just let you start teaching classes." Then he abruptly commanded the boy not to let ANYTHING come between him and God. He then said his nephew had let books come between him and God, further explaining this phenomenon by saying that he was "26, and didn't date." The Bell-Ringer stated that the only way to know God was through a relationship, ie: mindlessly procreating. Then I walked out, thinking about the Bell-Ringer's closeted gay nephew who's probably a grad student teaching classes to underclassmen at IU, and how he probably never speaks of his crazy uncle.

After leaving the break room and returning to my register, an elderly man came through my line with a WIC voucher for produce. I accidentally didn't use the entirety of the $6 on the man's produce. He demanded that I fix this. I called my manager over, and my manager explained that there was no way of fixing this due to WIC's strict regulations. The man replied "so, I'm going to have to pay for someone else's mistake?" Yes, he indeed had to pay $1, while tax-payers paid the remaining $5 that had already been accounted for. He spent a total of $54 after that voucher. With food stamps. Including the dreaded $1.

An impatient woman came through my line one of the first afternoons I was working and was using food stamps. I don't fully remember what happened, but something went wrong, and I didn't know what to do about it, as I hadn't been taught yet. Her response to this was "you shouldn't be doing this if you don't know what the hell you're doing." I prefer to think that this is a manifestation of the bad karma that follows her around.

I've noticed that the store's HR representative/secretary says "from WO-rk" in the same way every time she calls me, and it really pisses me off. I'll have to say it aloud for you sometime so that you understand this, because it gets under your skin immediately. Also, I don't understand why she doesn't just say the name of the store, as opposed to "from WO-rk." I have decided that she is also deceptive and inept, as she told me that I'd probably be making $8.70/hr when I first began, and then upon questioning her a week later, she put all the blame for me only making $7.25/hr on the union. She shouldn't have said anything at all if there was any doubt about it. She was also telling me about how she was going to take some classes to learn to operate Microsoft Word. My internal response is that I could easily take her job in a heartbeat if it wasn't company policy to only promote from within. I'm coming for her, I suppose.

Today, on my 15-minute break, I learned a man's three-generation history of how his family came to reside in Fort Wayne, unprovoked. I was watching the evening news when this man started yelling at me while not looking directly at me (at all...it was always to my far left) about how his grandfather ordered a house kit from the Sears catalog when he had farmland near the area. "Built the whole damn thing from a single kit, and the house is still standing today. Took my wife out there to see the place. We was driving through and she says 'look at that pretty little house' and I says 'that's my grandfather's house' and she JUST CAN'T BELIEVE IT." Then he talked about how some fast-talking oil men came in and convinced his grandfather to put some kind of lean on the land as they drilled for oil. Their drilling only produced methane gas, as his grandfather's land was ancient swamp land, which is apparently the best kind of farm land around. Except for when the farmer attempts to grow potatoes. He went on to say that the Hinkles, at some point amidst their northern Indiana farming success, attempted to grow potatoes and sell them to the Seifer's chip factory that used to be here, but that their potatoes were rejected because a potato that's grown in old swamp land picks up the taste of the muck itself. The potatoes taste earthen and moldy. Then the man heard some alarm going off and stormed out of the room. That's when my break expired and I left.

A woman had been sure that there was more money on her food stamp card then there was. Upon learning how much was actually on the card, she began exclaiming "I'm gonna KILL my son!" Then, with a sigh of exasperation, she said "there goes my beer money."

Yesterday, as I was assisting a customer in my express lane (read: should be 15 items or less) whom easily had about 30-40 thanks to the four WIC vouchers she wanted me to process, a young man shouted at me from over a divider "hey yo. yo. YO." When I finally looked at him he said "can I get a Red Bull with food stamps?" I stared at him and then replied that I wasn't sure. "Tsk. You ain't sure. Then who IS?" He said this with a really condescending, impatient tone. I pointed out the managers, and he and his snickering friend walked away. Then I realized that he was either the brother or the lover of the girl I'd been helping, and, by extension, the dependent of the girl's mother whom had just spent about $300 in food stamps buying expensive real foods. He and his snickering friend then presented me with a range of chips, candy, and pop as he asked how he was supposed to use his food stamp card. "You slide it" was all I said. I watched him as he and his friend laughed with glee about getting away with using food stamps for the first time.

There is a great deal of racial variation in this store's customers, but the majority of customers are black. I am white and relatively well-spoken. I've noticed that a small percentage of these customers will give me dirty looks in between carrying on with their friends and acquaintances they see around the store. I try to ignore this, but I constantly feel like I'm in a Spike Lee film that's about to become misguidedly violent for no reason at any moment. I deeply hate this feeling, but it's honest in its presence. There is a definite tension regarding my presence in this store. Also, I become extremely frustrated with the stereotypes that are constantly played out amongst our customers. Chitlins, turkey necks, turkey tails, pig feet, etc...they are what my friend Nick referred to as "slave food." He was telling me that his dad refuses to allow his children to eat these things because he believes that the "tradition" of eating these things only contributes to the tradition of inferiority, to eat the pieces that are meant to be thrown away/thrown to the dogs. These things are still extremely popular amongst our customers. This doesn't frustrate me on a racial level as much as it does a class level. I feel the same way every time a disheveled white person comes through with nothing but Mountain Dew and chips or something. It's the nutritional perpetuation of a slave class status. It's settling for bad food when it isn't much more expensive to get things that are good for you or at least of higher quality. Latinos also fall back on traditional cheap foods, but from what I've observed, theirs always seem to be more balanced or generally better. Refried beans, tortillas, lettuce, tomato, pinto soup beans, various kinds of peppers, and whatever kind of meat is on sale (usually chicken or ground beef). While it isn't built into the American tradition, what I've seen come through nearly every Latino's order is becoming more and more present in orders across the racial board, because this is nourishing cheap food. Another stereotype I find odd but culturally interesting: Asians typically only buy fresh produce and eggs. I want to know what they're making with these things, but they usually don't speak English. Also, everyone across the board pays in food stamps. It isn't racially limited in the slightest. It's just an indicator of what kind of area this is. Sometimes I see well-dressed people with the newest phones and whatnot paying with food stamps. It angers me.

Most days in this store are meat-tastrophes for me. The top selling kind is, of course, ground beef, followed by chicken (mainly legs followed by breasts), steaks, then catfish. My hands dry out by the end of my shift from all of the sanitizer I pour on them throughout my time there.

There was an elderly woman that came through my line yesterday who was followed by a slightly younger man whom was shouting gibberish in one long stream of gibberish. She was begging forgiveness from everyone, explaining that her son was troubled and going back to the hospital soon, and that she'd be having the time of her life if it wasn't for him. She said she was 72 and he was 52 and he'd been this way and living with her almost all his life. She was very embarrassed and kept telling him to shut up and stop it but he wouldn't. At one point, while he was staring at me and shouting gibberish, it sounded as if he scoffed/laughed and said "nigger" as if he was preaching to everyone that surrounded me about how the whitey should not be trusted. That's when people looked at me, as if I'd done something to provoke it. The mother kept telling him to shut up and eventually the eyes left me, but the feeling, no matter how fleeting, was not pleasant.

A woman came through tonight with three items: a half gallon of milk, fudge popsicles, and a pineapple. I asked her, as I ask everyone, how she was doing. She sighed and said "fine, but my rabbit's sick. That's why I'm getting the pineapple." I learned that apparently pineapple is supposed to jump-start a rabbit's digestive system.

Friday, October 29, 2010


It's done, finally.



Halloween Mix Three Setlist:

"Dead Like Us"-Idiot Flesh
"Sleep Is Wrong"-Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
"I Love the Nightlife"-Alicia Bridges
"Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)"-Concrete Blonde
"Bela Lugosi's Dead"-Bauhaus
"This Corrosion"-Sisters of Mercy
"Wanna Be a Vampire Too, Baby"-Helium
"Vampire"-Antsy Pants
"People Are Strange"-The Doors
"Possum Kingdom"-Toadies
"Bloodsport"-Sneaker Pimps
"Long Hard Road Out of Hell"-Marilyn Manson & Sneaker Pimps
"Transylvanian Concubine [Yes Sir, Mr. Sir Marilyn Manson Club Mix]"-Rasputina
"Love Game (Chew Fu Ghettohouse Fix)"-Lady GaGa feat. Marilyn Manson
"Before I'm Dead"-kidneythieves

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This is the second Halloween Mix of 2010. I made this for the creeps that find this time of the year romantic...myself included. There are genuinely creepy "love"-related songs on it, as well.

Download here.

Or listen here.

Halloween 2010 Mix Two:
"Burn"-The Cure
"Demons Sing Love Songs"-Unwound
"Spooky"-Classics IV
"Ava Adore"-The Smashing Pumpkins
"Black Sheep"-Metric
"Love Me"-The Cramps
"No One Does It Like You"-Department of Eagles
"He Hit Me"-Grizzly Bear
"Sadness Creeping Up and Scaring Away the Couple's Happiness"-Of Montreal
"I Will Possess Your Heart"-Death Cab for Cutie
"I'm Always Manic (When I'm Around You)"-A Big Yes and A Small No
"Pretty When You Cry"-VAST
"Don't Cha"-Xiu Xiu
"Wet Dreams"-The Growlers
"Little Red Riding Hood"-Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs
"I Love You, Too"-Disney's Pete's Dragon
"Love Potion #9"-The Searchers
"I Love the Dead"-Alice Cooper


My apologies for doing this so late in the month and so very, very close to Halloween. I hope that at least some of you have a chance to listen to this while it's still seasonally appropriate.

Like last time, you can download the show's mp3 file here.

Or just listen to it RIGHT HERE!

Halloween Mix One Setlist:
"Burn the Witch"-Queens of the Stone Age
"We Put the Fun Back in Funeral"-Mercury Radio Theater
"Corpse Grindin' Man"-Harley Poe
"Dead Lover's Twisted Heart"-Daniel Johnston
"Everyone Was Still"-The Robot Ate Me
"Time of the Season"-The Zombies
"Zombie Killer"-Leslie Hall feat. Elvira
"Red Right Hand"-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
"Mr. Clarinet"-The Birthday Party
"Youth of America"-Birdbrain
"Avoid Pregnancy During Alcohol"-Men's Recovery Project
"Party Werewolf (I Need a Freak)"-Andy D.
"Lotion"-Greens Keepers
"Goodbye Horses"-Q. Lazzarus
"Gas Chamber"-L7
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre Intro"
"I Put a Spell on You"-Marilyn Manson
"Spellbound"-Siouxsie and The Banshees

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A general update on life.

I didn't report things here. I didn't feel the need to say anything about things as they happened. This has conveniently combined with my desire to begin making podcasts. The following is my first ever podcast show, separated into two parts. The music is good, but I think my voice breaks are shitty. Also, I'm working with a laptop mic and Audacity. Also, it's whiny. Bear with me.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2

You can download the show here and here.

Or, just listen to them right here.
Part one.

Part two.

These are the setlists.

Part One:
"DJ"-David Bowie
"Here's Your Future"-The Thermals
"Free to Go"-The Folk Implosion
"Rocket USA"-Suicide
"I'm Going Home"-Tim Curry
"Alphabet Town"-Elliott Smith
"Kerosene"-Big Black
"Happy in Fort Wayne"-The Beautys
"Digital"-Joy Division
"Send in the Clowns"-The Tiger Lillies
"Miss You"-The Rolling Stones
"Try Try Try"-The Smashing Pumpkins
"Come Home"-Good Luck
"Tomorrow Belongs to Me"-Cabaret Film Cast

Part Two:
"Tomorrow Is Already Here"-Stereolab
"To Hell With Poverty"-Gang of Four
"Do They Owe Us a Living?"-Crass
"Dirty Work"-Poison Girls
"College"-Animal Collective
"Meet Your Master"-Nine Inch Nails
"Thank You, Friends"-Big Star
"Walkabout"-Atlas Sound
"So Alone"-Ty Segall
"Let It Be Known"-The Growlers
"I'm Here But No I'm Not"-We Are Hex
"So Happy I Could Die"-Lady GaGa
"Against Me"-Why?
"I Wanna Sleep"-No Age
"Telephone Line"-Electric Light Orchestra
"Be Thankful for What You Got"-William DeVaughn
"Song to the Siren"-This Mortal Coil
"Try, Try, Try"-Rockaby Baby
"Walking Corpse"-Otis & The Rufies

EDIT: I meant to have "Thank You, Friends" by Big Star, but it's actually "You Can't Have Me" on the mix, because the file names themselves were messed up. Sorry, guys.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My friends are vagrants all of different sorts. When I pass under bridges I think about sleeping there. When I see the narrow allies between buildings I wonder who has claimed them for their sleeping quarters. I didn't elect this life, but here it is.

I had thought, nearly a month ago, that there would be no more hassle left. That things would assemble nicely for me. I thought that everything would fall neatly into place. And I was very wrong. The only job to present itself was working in a Korean laundry mat washing and folding other people's laundry. And, again, being told that I wasn't working quickly enough.

And so I quit, deciding that I still had dignity and time left. Potentially foolish. Potentially a sign of greatness. I felt bad about leaving her based on her grandmotherly qualities. But the language barrier, at first endearing, proved to be too much for me to handle on the job. So I lied to her, saying that I had accepted a job elsewhere. She overpaid me for the last check. She's a nice woman and her kim-bobs are delicious.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It occurs to me that I have never blogged from Soma before. So have. At. It.

Homeless and jobless. But not desperate. And not necessarily homeless. I have friends. Lots of them. Many of them have couches. This town doesn't want to see me go. Neither do I.

People in relationships have expressed interest in me. Flattering, but generally disgruntling. Still, it's nice to know that multiple people consider me highly datable. Or at least the potential greatest friend ever. It's always nice to know some think so highly of me.

And apparently many are thinking highly of me. Highly enough to put up with me living in their apartments. Sleeping on their couches. Sleeping on their floors. Using their showers. Eating their food. Drinking their booze. I have fucking fantastic friends.

In other news: I've gone vegetarian. Slaughterhouse got to me in a way that PETA could not. Gail Eisnitz pushed me over the edge because of her constant description of the slaughterhouse floor, which is the most filthy surface in existence. Workers forced to relieve themselves there because they aren't offered a bathroom break. Blood. Guts. Excrement. Pus. Ruptured abscesses. Rot. Animals in the process of being processed into unrecognizable meat morsels fall onto it occasionally in the process. Workers shackle them right back up. A fallen animal is a lost profit, despite the fact that a single slaughterhouse in America today makes about three times the amount of all meat produced nationally in 1939. America exports quite a lot of meat throughout the world. It is the world's slaughterhouse. America wears a flimsy butcher's apron and is covered in scars because proper safety precautions would require lost profit in the form of internal investment and drastically slower lines. Speed is money. Some die. Henry Ford would have wanted it this way, I'm sure.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Supply and demand.

I will rework myself. I will rebuild my castles.
Or construct what I have imagined.
The rows will be straight but interesting.
The patterns for business and pleasure.
The world will demand me when I am through sculpting the perceived self.
I will be the golden one.
To go from cusp to flow.
From class to class.
Moving upward always.
Stagnation is still a death.
And it is to be feared and avoided.
This is a natural part of personal evolution.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th, my 23rd birthday.

I've spent it wandering around in Bloomington. I feel that this was the best choice. Tonight I will wear a hockey mask and carry a fake machete with me to the bars. After last night, though, I have mixed feelings about drinking again any time soon. I had forgotten what it's like to drink a large amount, not realizing that I rarely drink these days. What would have been a "decent" amount for my body to handle last night turned out to be an atrocious idea. Also, I spent this morning debating about when to get up and explain to Taylor's roommates who I was and I why I was sleeping on their couch.

I quit my job yesterday after my shift. I decided I had had quite enough of all that. If I'm going to be abused by my manager, I'd better be making at least $5/hr over minimum wage.

This afternoon, I plan on rallying people to go see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World with me. Good decisions all over.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

They built this house sometime in the late 1800s. We were never exactly sure. The alleyway was once a river. We witnessed it return to that state during a hard rain when I was a child. It smelled like sewage for the next few weeks.

I don’t go outside at night anymore. There are gang members and drug dealers that will stand in the middle of the street, even when my truck is coming towards them, daring me to hit them or stop so that they might assault me. You would think that with the condition of my truck they would realize that I’m not a rich person. Unfortunately, they don’t care. Their thoughts now cycle around the idea that there is no honor amongst thieves, even if the person they’re assaulting isn’t a thief. It’s assumed that we all are if we live here. There is a desperation that both binds us together and makes us afraid of each other. I can’t look at a man walking down the street in my neighborhood and not assume that he engages in wrongdoings. We’re imprisoned in this house.

I thought about joining the military, then realized that I’m not fit enough to do so and that they wouldn’t want me wasting their resources while I attempted to chisel myself out of the body I’d been in my whole life. Then I realized that I would be just another poor person crossing the seas and killing other poor people. The worst kind of corporately owned government pawn. We’re all pawns, but we don’t necessarily have to kill.

All I can do is sleep now. Every day feels like another day of warfare. Of fighting. I told Lauren I felt like I was waiting, but didn’t know when the waiting would stop. The war is with the calendar. The war is with the clock. As Thom Yorke crooned, “I’m not living, I’m just killing time.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

My newest hero.

Temple Grandin: A high-functioning autistic woman who ended up getting a doctorate in animal psychology and designing humane cattle handling systems for use on ranches and in slaughterhouses. Her main focus was respecting animals we had engineered for our own consumption. She said that her autism allowed her to identify with them as prey animals. She now teaches at Colorado University and lectures worldwide as an autistic rights advocate. She also built a hug machine (squeezebox) for the hypersensitive.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


After telling mom about last night, she also suspected that it was one of the creepy guys that lives on the other side of Mrs. Creighton. Then she proceeded to tell me about how she once saw one of those men screaming and chasing a cat with that very same katana. And about seeing them screaming at and hitting one of their numerous dogs. And about a creepy "don't steal our dog" sign positioned in such a place that only Mrs. Creighton would be able to see it. I have trouble imagining an elderly woman snatching a dog. Perhaps calling Animal Control...but not snatching it.

Also, I just got a job as a deli clerk at Fresh Market. $8.25/hr. Minimally 25 hrs per week. The assistant manager seemed very apologetic about offering me such a "low" rate when I already have experience in the position. I insisted that it was fine and that I didn't mind starting low and working my way upward. Which I don't. I think I enjoy earning my place in ranking systems. He insisted that I'll probably be offered a full-time position within a month.

Also, Meijer conducted a phone interview with me before I went to Fresh Market today. If they're willing to offer me a third shift position (one of those AM deals), I'll take it. I just want to be making money all the time. And that goal is within reach.

Now, to set up some freelance writing positions.


I've developed a bad habit of staying up into the late, late hours of the night playing flash games online. When I have no reason to be anywhere or do anything, nothing gets done. My life becomes stagnant in flash games.

At about 4:40am, I was sitting in the arm chair in the living room watching I Shouldn't Be Alive when I heard the rusty gate between our house and Mrs. Creighton's house open and close. Our yards are outlined only by chainlink fences. This particular gate only leads into her yard. She keeps a tight schedule. I have a hard time imagining that it was her or her distant daughter.

I have said before that this isn't the best neighborhood. There are two creepy men that live in the house just beyond Mrs. Creighton's that stay up all night watching various action films. I once came home late just in time to witness one of them, the one that once threatened to slit my father's throat in front of a group of family friends, "practicing" with a katana. In my mind, these men are a mixture of Boo Radley and Buffalo Bill, amongst other things. Beyond them are various other renters. There are at least two homes within a block's radius of my house that contain drug dealers who are entertaining brief company all day and night, but mostly at night. There is an apartment complex up the street that one wouldn't want to be caught by when night fell. Things are routinely broken, stolen, and generally trashed. There is no feeling of being safe in this part of Fort Wayne. Moreso at night than during the day.

One of my deepest fears is someone breaking into my dwelling as I sleep. I kind of always feel vulnerable in this sense, but the plethora of windows in this place makes me feel especially vulnerable, and always has.

In hearing that gate, it wasn't a sense of physical intrusion that made me afraid. It was that whomever opened and closed this gate could clearly see me on my laptop through the window I was sitting next to. It was the fear of being watched and not knowing it or sensing it. I turned off the light as if it helped. I went to the front door and crept out and around my house, creeping along the path that runs alongside my neighbor's house.stopping just beyond the window that may or may not have betayed my privacy in the darkness. I stood and stared into the night, as if there was going to be some flash, some monster emerging and chasing me. But there was nothing. I turned and stared into the window of my house, disturbed by how much I could see. Then I briskly ran back into my house. Then faced a moment of horror movie consciousness. "This move was as bad as saying 'I'll be right back'...you went outside to check on a strange noise. The killer could be in the house."

I curled up on the loveseat, out of view with my laptop. I stared into the darkness of the entryways to the sides of the TV on the wall. I was beginning to expect a shadow to shift there in the blackness, aided by the changing light source the TV provided in the room.

But nothing happened. I'm just paranoid, as usual.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A rollercoaster in a downward spiral, a drilling tornado on the plains.

I should be doing something.
Or be somewhere, right now.
Dad told me I was becoming like my dad.
It sounded negative.
Job to job to job, he said.
He glanced at something, shaking his head before walking out.
Leaving to go fix my grandmother's shed roof.
On, which, he spent his own money.
But what am I to do?

I'm begging to work for someone.
To clean up fecal matter.
To apologetically repair someone else's mistakes.
To humbly serve the richer.
Just hire me, please.
I'll be the best servant you've ever had.
I won't complain.
I'll ask questions, but that will save you time later.
I won't ask them again, I promise.
Please, let me lick the filth off of your shoes.
They will shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.
Like Daddy Warbucks' titanium, ivory, gold-plated banisters.
Like the Monopoly Man's newest monocle, lovingly handcrafted by the smallest of endentured servant hands.
He is no Mr. Peanut.
That's me, because that's what I'm paid in.
I will never tell you that I am above the task at hand.
The grit will wish it had never existed, I assure you.
Even if it is inanimate, it will awaken only to curse itself.
Just, please, for the love of God, hire me.

I overdrafted my bank account.
It was a negative three and seven.
$3.07 that could have become $20, $40, $60+
Had mom not caught it.
I asked her to check it three days ago, though.
Oh well, I said.
I cried in the shower.
I told myself to stay calm.
I told myself these were black days.
I hummed it to myself.
But it can't rain all the time.
I cried into my watery arm and only felt stereotypical and washed up.
I feel like I have everything and nothing to say right now.

I attended a poetry reading and found an old acquaintance had found Jesus.
And wanted us to find him, also.
And we listened for an hour as he told us about his life.
And all the horrible things that had recently happened.
And all the great timing that surrounded his discovery of religion and spirituality.
Great timing saved him from mourning his mother, staying in a relationship with his fiance, fretting over her discovery of cancer shortly thereafter, and the miscarriage of his previously undiscovered child.
"I met someone new in my prayer group," he beamed.
"I sing the song of myself," I thought.
And thought of the golden-haired angel being cast out of the heavens and given a new name.
The same old self-serving, self-advertising man.
But with the new taste of "calling" and "devoted lifestyle."
A friend said that friend was dead.
I calmly agreed.

I feel more dead than alive, but nothing will send me back to Jesus other than massive bodily harm.
Which I don't anticipate.

Now I'm going to play Clue with my sister and forget feeling so frustrated for a minute.

I have an interview tomorrow. I have a good shot at winning a contest. Fingers crossed. Eyes open. Held breath.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I will build a fortress of unread books, so help me...

I feel a seething laziness. I'm furious for having nothing to do. I take my frustrations out on worthless online games. I have a pile of books that I'm building that I haven't read yet. Books I collected from all over the country. Hip, bizarre, they sound interesting. Here, let me list them for you.

In Seattle, I bought another Cormac McCarthy book in Left Bank Books, which is basically a sister store of Boxcar Books in Bloomington. Blood Meridian, as it is talking about the wild west that I'd just passed through in getting to Seattle. More than that, I wanted to give Left Bank Books some money, as, like Boxcar, it was all volunteer-run.

Later on in Seattle, I bought Sons of the Profits after taking the tour of their underground. It was a bestseller. It sounds promising. It could end up being boring. We'll find out.

In Olympia, I found another radical anarchist bookstore and decided to buy something just because of it once again. This time, it was a book called The World's Shortest Stories, edited together by Steve Moss. The cover reminded me of a popular zine series I'd seen in Boxcar. I aim to establish a connection.

In Portland, while still dumbfounded by the size of Powell's City of Books, I bought Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy, as it is currently being advertised and promoted by hip booksellers all across the country, namely because it's something strange that most people never think about. I think it's probably going to be like a summer horror film, Mary Roach style.

I bought a Mary Roach book while in Powell's, too. Bonk, this time. I read about half of it while on the road and then lost interest, but I'll finish it eventually. I also bought a book to satiate the ever-growing interest in forensics-Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner. My mother glimpsed this book right after I came home and demanded that I tell her whether or not it was interesting, because she wanted to read it if it was. Have I ever mentioned that we spend a good chunk of our free time watching the Investigation Discovery Channel? Imagine 24/7 of crime investigation shows. That's what it is. I almost bought Anna Karina, but convinced myself that I could find it cheaper elsewhere. Perhaps that was foolish.

Then, while in Bloomington, Domino asked me if I had ever read any Terkel, and when I responded that I hadn't, she produced one of his books, The Good World: An Oral History of World War Two, and told me to read it. I'd never heard of it before, but the cover tells me that it's a Pulitzer Prize Winner and was on the New York Times Bestseller List for over five months. I was intrigued.

Last night, in thanks for fixing their computer speakers and reminding him that he had left his checkbook at the Walmart Pharmacy according to a call received during my visit, my grandfather came by with three books he'd freshly bought from Walmart that I had asked to borrow from him when they were returned from other borrowers earlier in the day. The first three Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris: Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, and Club Dead. My grandfather has a thing for vampires in the same way that I once did, though his fetish has never diminished, nor has his pleasure in sharing vampire novels with me. As he gave me the third, with a cover marred by the HBO series' cast rather than the original artwork, he lowered his voice and said "a little piece of trivia for you...that one," he pointed to Anna Paquin, "just came out recently."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Well, I'm back!

California was lovely. Admittedly, I like northern California more than southern California.

Arizona was very hot. We're talking 104 degrees. 80 degrees at night. On the way to the Grand Canyon from Tempe, we passed a prairie fire on top of a mesa. Everything in a mile radius of it had been charred black. Traffic was backed up for miles on that side of the highway. Luckily, we were on the other side and it had been taken care of by the time we drove back. There were cacti. I was very excited about this.

The Grand Canyon is indeed grand. Massive. I felt like we were standing in front of a giant oil painting of the Grand Canyon. We decided we were going to hike down the Bright Angel path, which had been listed as "Steep, but popular." "Popular, eh? If it's popular, we should easily take it."

Three of us were having a hard time with it. Andres is fit, and therefore didn't. We got about halfway to the 1 1/2 mile rest stop before seeing it from far away and deciding that we were "not going to make it." What took us about an hour to walk down took us about two hours to climb out of. Still, it was an adventure and I would gladly do it again. And again. And again.

We left Tempe as soon as we woke up and began the 16 hour drive to Austin, TX. We stopped at one tourist trap along the way. It was called "The Thing." It ended up being a strange museum of sorts. I appreciated it for what it was.

Outside of El Paso, I called Sara. I was in her homeland and it seemed appropriate. It was mainly because I wanted to hear her voice. I'd been thinking about her throughout all of my travels, and because she is a proud Texan, it felt appropriate to contact her. I had called her before while walking around in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and she had apparently been with a friend and driving. But she still talked to me as I yammered about what I was seeing. This time, I talked about the heat and how I disliked it. She told me to imagine that I was a lizard, sunning myself. The conversation was very brief, and I sensed that it wasn't necessarily welcomed. But she didn't cut me off. We got back on the road and I said goodbye.

Deanna drove through gray skies. I would occasionally perk up to watch lightening in the distance before going back to sleep. Before nightfall, we switched off. I drove through the Texas blackness and loved it. Nothing could be seen but the road immediately in front of us and headlights in the distance. Occasionally I would see lightening, though I wished for more. What gas stations we found past midnight were mainly closed, as they were all in small Texas towns built on the highway. I kept thinking of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That made the driving more interesting.

In one such town, the speed limit dropped, as they often do, but I missed the one that suddenly said 30. We were driving the previous speed limit, which was 45. There were lights flashing behind me before I knew what happened. We explained that we hadn't seen the sign, and when I was totally sure that he was going to give me my second ticket of the trip, he returned with a written warning. He showed up about a block past the original sign. The 30 limit lasted for another four blocks before turning back into 45. He took pity on us, as we were about 70 miles away from Austin after driving all day long.

We made it to Austin at about 2am. We checked into a cheap Motel 6, switched rooms because the one we were originally assigned to was full of bugs, then passed out. When we woke up, we went to the Whole Foods headquarters, then split up for a while and went to various stores. Then we drove to the Bat Bridge, which has the largest urban bat population in the world. While we saw none, we could hear them all. The area smelled like a giant rat cage. I was enthralled.

Then we walked around for a little while looking at shops. We meant to go to the nearby Amy's Ice Cream location, but it appeared to be closed. We stopped by the PetsAlive! booths across the street and took a bit to pet kitties and puppies. I met a pup that was obviously meant to come home with me, but that wouldn't have been practical. Then we went to another Amy's location that was open. The dude that was scooping ice cream was extremely charismatic. We each got a couple samples, then it came time to order. Deanna made her decision, and I was being somewhat indecisive, as usual. The dude behind the counter joked with me that I could just get all 16 flavors in one small cup. And so I accepted. And he was surprised and excited, because, apparently, in the seven years he'd worked there, not one person he'd offered that to had ever taken him up on it. And it was delicious.

Then we left right afterward and went to Houston. We stayed with Deanna's sister, brother-in-law, and their two small children. They were very nice to us. In the morning, we went to a bunch of museums. My favorites were the Holocaust Museum (no surprise there) and the Museum of Medical Science (again, not a lot of surprise). The Museum of Contemporary Art had an interesting textiles exhibit going on, but the one going on downstairs felt like filler material to me compared to what was upstairs. At one point, we got caught in a downpour, and had to walk about a mile back to the car. I thought it was funny. Then we went out to dinner with Deanna's family, then went home and slept a couple hours before leaving at 1AM and heading toward Indiana.

Hard rains on the highway. It's hurricane season. I felt like every cop was a shark, and I was surrounded by sharks that had been thrown ashore by the high winds. But I liked driving through Louisiana in the dark. Lots of bridges and whatnot. I always prefer driving at night to driving during the day. Less distraction. More peaceful time to relax and think. It's a kind of ritual, really. That's why I used to go out so often at night around here. Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, and all that jazz.

In Bloomington, I stayed with Gizmo while Deanna stayed with Leigh. Gizmo got me drunk while I was still loopy from driving all day AND helped me do my laundry. Then we went out and saw people and I got lots of hugs. Then we went home and I passed out. Then we went to the Farmer's Market in the morning and I saw even more people and got even more hugs. Then more people wanted to hang out with me. More hugs. Domino invited me to a picnic the next morning with her new girlfriend, so I hung out with them. Domino and I had a long conversation about Sara, and she compared it to how her relationship with her new girlfriend came about. The difference is that this story is not mutual, and that Sara doesn't pursue me in the slightest. Then we "played basketball" with her ex and another friend. Then I played videogames with Cody for the rest of the afternoon. I left the next day. On the way back to Fort Wayne, I called Sara, and she didn't answer. Nor did she call back. As usual, I will take this as a sign of disinterest. No matter what she might say in response to this, it's what I needed. I need to stop thinking about her. I need to move on. I've been too sad for too long.

One thing I came to terms with on this road trip is that my heart really has been broken. It's going to take a mixture of time and someone else.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

California, California...

...you're such a wonder that I think I'll stay in bed.

Actually, I've enjoyed California quite a bit. It has many landscapes to choose from. Lots of rich people. Lots of poor people. Lots of people just trying to make it.

San Francisco was beautiful. It was built on a mountain and has lots of hills surrounding it, which is where you get the ridiculous slopes on their streets (fun to drive on and climb!), and the city's grid is understandable until you get to the mountain and everything becomes a giant spiral. It was exciting to ride on a subway again. Subways are one of the greatest pleasures in my life. I just don't talk about it.

We spent a long time in Golden Gate Park. Well, I did until Deanna gave up on finding me or the structures I'd been talking about finding, so she went back to Haight to shop. I explored the botanical gardens. I hiked up Strawberry Hill and got a decent view of the bay from it. Strawberry hill is surrounded by a giant mote-like pond filled with birds and turtles. Didn't find any strawberries, though. It was raining off and on while I walked around by myself. I made several phone calls and killed my cell phone's fully charged battery, but it was worth it. I needed some solitude and contact with friends. Not having the ability to text keeps me at a great distance from everyone else during this trip and also made it quite irritating at times. If Deanna gets pissed with me, she can just text someone to vent about it. I have to wait until I'm totally alone, which has only happened a handful of times. Very frustrating.

Yes, we've been quite pissed with each other off and on throughout this trip. I finally confronted her about it the last time and she blamed it on PMS, which I think is a cop-out. But at least it's been better since I confronted her.

So, yes, after Golden Gate Park, we climbed a giant hill that gave us a superb view of San Francisco. Then, we went to Chinatown. We watched a woman making fortune cookies in the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company. A man shook a tray of cookie samples at us and we indulged. Hot fortune cookies are pretty good. Then we found a restaurant that was surprisingly cheap for being as nice as it was. The reason we selected this restaurant, though, was that it had whole Chinese chickens hanging in its window. I drank about seven cups of tea and six glasses of water. I also ate an enormous pile of shrimp chow mein (with FRESH shrimp...I can't get over the seafood out here). Then we returned to the Castro, but on the way there, we accidently bought our way onto a different rail system and had to pay them a total of $3.50 just to leave that area of the station and go somewhere else, altogether wasting $5.00. When we returned to the Castro, I made her walk around with me a little because I wanted to gawk at the gay district a bit instead of just using it as a travel point. There isn't much to say, really. It was a rich queer's paradise. High-end bars and shops. Rainbow flags everywhere. There was a storefront that I supposed was being preserved because it was where Harvey Milk's headquarters were during his campaign.

When we wanted to return to Michael and Natalie's place, we realized we didn't know how. We called them asking for directions and whatnot. I think they were disappointed that we didn't get to hang out with them more or allow them to show us around the city. I felt bad about it. Natalie tried to get us to the right bus stop and then my phone died. When I called Michael, he suggested that he just come pick us up. We greatly appreciated the rescue.

We left at 5am the next morning because we wanted to avoid LA rush hour traffic. About 10 minutes on the highway, I realized that I had left my cell phone at their apartment. We had to turn around. We still managed to make it to LA well before rush hour, though we didn't take the fastest route (US-5) OR the prettiest (US-1). I was kind of bummed out about it. But we still got to our destination in a timely manner.

We took Spencer by surprise with our early arrival. He went jogging while we played Rock Band. When he got back, he took us to see the sights. I have now seen all that Hollywood jazz. I touched Bette Davis' handprint in the cement. I was very happy. Today, he's taking us to Venice Beach. I'm pretty excited.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Olympia cont., Oregon, California

Olympia is FULL of hippie punks and queers. It was delightful. We ended up going to a cafe to soak up some wi-fi and reading time while waiting for the Good Luck/Break Your Heart/Olympia Free Choir/Kimya Dawson show. Which ended up being awesome and totally worth the wait. I think that Kimya Dawson is the Patti Smith of our generation. And she almost never leaves Olympia these days because that's where her family and best friends are. Also, apparently my friend Ginger was the first person outside of her family to see her child after it was born. And the line "I've never met a Tobey that I didn't like" is about Matt Tobey, the guitarist in Good Luck, and I would assume the rest of his family. I graduated next to his sister/my friend, Erin Tobey. Erin and Kimya are also very close friends. Weird. The world is really just an extended Bloomington, I think. I couldn't approach Kimya Dawson, though I really wanted to. I'm too impressed with her.

We left Olympia right after the show and got to Portland late in the evening, where we promptly passed out in our room in Ramada. We woke up and drove downtown to get ourselves some Voodoo Doughnuts. I highly recommend them to anyone that visits the area. Then I found a Crass shirt in a punk store around the corner that was desperate to be like SEX. Then we went to Powell's: City of Books and whatnot. Walked around and all that jazz. Deanna accidentally broke the driver's side mirror in the parking garage. I felt bad for her and duct taped it up afterward. We ended up getting bored with the town and leaving shortly after, hitting up The Grotto before getting out of town entirely. The Grotto is a Catholic sanctuary full of statues that rests on a mountainside. My guide suggested it. It was peaceful. From Portland, we went to Shelley's in Roseburg. We went to Shelley's preferred bar, getting cat-called by a few hobos outside of the "Wild Rose Saloon," which Shelley dreads Wimpy's trashman-style. There was some argument with the waitress over happy hour selections, but delicious fresh salmon. In the morning, we went to a safari, which was a drive-thru zoo. We saw an ostrich mating dance and mating act. And bears. And yaks. And turkies. There were a lot of strange animals. It was great.

Then we went to the coast, which was actually somewhat difficult to find. Shelley and I caught a glimpse of a whale from a distance. Then we went down and ran around in the water like kids. Then we went looking for weird things that had washed up. Then a bald eagle showed up and was like "hey, I'm a bald eagle and I'm going to land on this beach." And we were all like "hey! You're a bald eagle! Woah!" And then he flew away majestically into rain clouds and the sunset. Then we went and ate seafood in a restaurant built on the docks. Some of the items we sampled were "salmon nuggets." Breaded, fried pieces of fresh salmon. Orgasmic. Have I mentioned I'm a salmon fiend? Well, I am. Then we returned to Roseburg and got some gasoline. In Oregon, it's illegal to pump your own gas, so every station is full service. Also, Oregon is one of those states that's printed on every participating aluminum can next to the "Redeem for $.05" bit, so they have these machines at the supermarket that basically scan the barcodes of cans and bottles while sucking them up. If they aren't "participating" items, the machine spits them into a rejection bin so that you can reclaim it and recycle it elsewhere. Then it gives you a receipt to redeem in the store's checkout lane for all the participating items you deposited. So, if you were to deposit 10 cans, you've earned yourself a cheap pack of gum. I think that every state should participate in this program. In any case, it was very nice to see Shelley again. She's still one of my best friends. She's also an excellent hostess.

Then we got up early this morning and drove until we hit San Francisco. We passed through the Redwood forests on the Redwood Highway (also known as 101), and it is the most magical highway thinkable. It travels alongside miles of rocky California coastline surrounded by redwoods and pine trees. The air smelled like wild flowers, pine and salt water mist. We also made a quick stop at the "Trees of Mystery," which is a tourist trap area of the redwoods that features enormous statues of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox. This was actually creepy because Paul Bunyon was voiced by a man hiding out of view who would address crowd members directly. He asked us where we were from and we ignored him, so he addressed us no more. He was, however, striving to get someone to sit on his show to get a photograph taken, but he was doing so with the fervor of a man with a fetish for it. Creepy.

Hours later, here we are in San Francisco. Michael and Natalie are superb hosts. Right after we arrived, they made a pizza and gave us wireless access. So, we've all been sitting in the living room for hours watching Daria and screwing around on our laptops, which, Deanna and I agree, is exactly what we felt like we needed. Tomorrow, we'll explore San Francisco, then go to bed early so that we can leave in the night and head off for Los Angeles, hopefully avoiding rush hour traffic.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wyoming, Montana, Washington

We left Deadwood in sunshine, noting that the area was logged but very quaint. The buildings downtown were all very old and geared towards attracting tourists to them. We did not stop once we left the motel, though. I was glad to have downloaded the voice of Herbert, the aged pedophile from Family Guy, into my TomTom, as it'd been his voice directing us for most of our way thus far.

Wyoming took forever to drive through. It was very hilly, and the hills eventually gave way to the Big Horned Sheep Mountain range, which we had to drive up and over. That took about an hour longer than we thought it would, because mountains are kind of scary. We eventually reached Yellowstone, which was mountainous and dense with trees. There were bison who would graze right next to the road, daring you to stop and take their pictures with the danger of possibly charging your vehicle. To travel through Yellowstone is to travel through both forests and snowy mountain tops. Lake Yellowstone is enormous and covered with ice most of the year. There are steaming geysers everywhere and the smell of sulpher lingers in the air. It's terribly exciting, really. We stopped to look at some geysers and boiling puddles of mud before heading to the campground to ensure that we'd have a spot to rest for the night. While informing Deanna about the park regulations, etc., I watched the woman carefully go over the fact that this was BEAR COUNTRY, emphasizing it in every other sentence. She was so conscious of telling us that it was BEAR COUNTRY that she circled the picture of a bear at the top of the page. We both found this very funny.

We saw Old Faithful erupt while listening to a large group of Japanese tourists yell and squeal excitedly for the hour or so we spent waiting for it. There was a large hotel that had been built right next to Old Faithful that reminded me of the Animal Kingdom hotel my family and I took a peak at last summer. Everything, to some extent, feels like Disney World, or that Disney World has sucked some of its essence out. I don't know whether or not to feel annoyed or impressed with Disney, but I'm leaning towards being impressed. We, however, were not staying in a super-overpriced inn. We went back to our campsite and I had Deanna put away the food in the trunk and throw away the trash while I set up the tent (which, contrary to what it said on the outside, is NOT 6ft by 5ft...more like 5ft by 3ft). And then we bundled up and slept. It got down to about 20 degrees. Not an extremely pleasant evening, but it was cheap and that's what we wanted.

We got up at 5am and hit the road. I put AG's first mix to me on and it was absolutely perfect. Followed by Grizzly Bear, which was also perfect. Montana requires slow music. That's not just because the speed limit hangs around 55mph for most of the way through. We went through a series of sloping hills next to various rivers and streams and pastures. Gas stations were relatively sparse for a while because "real" towns were few and far in between. Maybe just long enough to make us nervous because we needed gas. But we survived. We ended up going through a series of canyons, which also took much longer than Google had predicted, because NO ONE should be going 65mph down a winding mountain/canyon.

Eventually we hit Washington, which was a lot of mountains and relatively clear until we reached Seattle, which was just slightly overcast for most of the day. Seattle was, in my opinion, wonderful. We got there in the evening, checking into our hotel and then hitting Capitol Hill, the city's gay district. We went to a place called Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen, which was essentially like Laughing Planet and The Vid rolled into one but waaaay overboard. Every surface was covered in Mexicana decor. It was awesome. Then we were walking around and looking at shops and clubs while heading back to the car when all of a sudden I stopped to take a photo of a bar called "Unicorn" and a drag queen standing on a box behind us next to an ambiguous establishment's door accosted us. "Hey, you girls looking for a place to get drunk all night and watch slutty naked ladies?" Deanna was, of course, put off, but I smiled and said "maybe." So she started talking us into coming inside. She was advertising a vaudeville show she co-starred in: The Vaudevillians. So I dragged Deanna inside, and it was brilliant. That drag queen was EXTREMELY talented. There were no slutty ladies, and I was perfectly content with that. Then we went home.

In the morning, we went to Pike Place Market, in which there were a ton of flower stands and fish markets with employees who would shout things in unison to make it interesting. I sampled some fresh smoked salmon that was not yet three days old and it was some of the most delicious salmon I've ever eaten. There were also quite a few artisans. I kept seeing dichoric glass stands, but no one's jewelery was as good as my mom's. That's not biased opinion. It's fact. Then I found that I had lost Deanna, so I decided to continue wandering, because we both have cell phones. I wandered into a book shop called Left Bank Books, only to find that it had quite a few gender studies books upon entry and in the back had a bunch of 'zines (including a bunch of stuff from Microcosm!). That's when I realized it was the Seattle version of Boxcar Books, and that all of its workers were also volunteers/anarchist punks. I took my hoodie off to reveal my Boxcar Books shirt in time for one of its volunteers who was eating lunch and kind of reminding me of Steven to say "hey, nice shirt! I've been there-it was years ago but it was really cool." We struck up a conversation about volunteering in these kinds of bookstores and about how it really sucks to leave them, because she herself was about to leave Left Bank. She was interested in hearing my story and gave me some suggestions about where we should go while in town. I bought Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and a Left Bank shirt before high-fiving her and awkwardly leaving.

Then I found Deanna and we went to a place called Piroshky, Piroshky, that serves an array of Russian pastry food (namely piroshkies). It was really delicious. Then we went to the Space Needle and saw some stuff. Then we went to the Underground Tour and went on a tour of the streets and what Seattle was before it made its 8-30ft high streets above the actual ground level. Seedy, interesting beginnings. Then we went to Ye Olde Curiosities Shoppe and saw an impressive array of dead things. Then we went to the Ivar's Fish Bar so that I could eat some fresh deep-fried clams and fries on the pier while being aggressively squawked at and eyed by some enormous seagulls. Then we went to a giant Asian grocery store in the International District that was surrounded by light posts with statues of Chinese dragons slithering up them so that Deanna could get some sushi (they say the sushi in Seattle is the best next to Japan). Then we went and saw the Troll under the Aurora St. Bridge and took a bunch of photos. Then we went back to the hotel and passed out.

We woke up this morning with just enough time for me to shower and for us to pack up the room and leave on before the official check-out time. We went to Aberdeen mainly just to take a token photo of the sign and for me to take a photo of the Wishka river, where half of Kurt Cobain's ashes were scattered. Then we turned around and drove back to Olympia, where we are now, sitting in the Spar Cafe & Bar, which looks like it's straight out of a noir film, just as my Let's Go! USA guide book suggested.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

South Dakota: a winning cake.

It's a beautiful state. I wasn't thinking very much of it because it was mainly plain scenery until we came to the top of a hill and saw a lot of rolling, sharper hills appear. And a huge lake that we drove over thanks to bridge similar to what one sees going through Griffy Lake in Bloomington. But this lake was more the size of Lake Monroe. Maybe bigger. And natural, unlike Lake Monroe. The name of the surrounding town was Chamberlain, like the original drummer for The Smashing Pumpkins (Jimmy Chamberlin). These allusions mean absolutely nothing to approximately 98% of the population.

Yes, we went to sleep last night in South Dakota and we're still in South Dakota and YES it took us all day to reach mount Rushmore when it was really only about four and a half or five hours away from where we started. That's mainly the fault of the sites that popped up along the way. Before we got to Chamberlain, we stopped in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace, which is really just a big auditorium building in its downtown area that happens to be ornately covered in corn, but the town's been rebuilding it every year since the late 1800's (except for when a drought occurs, causing them to ration out their corn in ways that do not accommodate the Corn Palace). I felt the need to buy my little sister something from this place in which there was nothing to see solely because it was so ridiculous. So I bought her popcorn on a cob that can be microwaved. I think she'll find it amusing. I hope.

The second tourist trap was Al's Oasis. The outside of the building looks like a stereotypical Disney take on a town of the Wild West, but inside, it's essentially just a grocery store, Dakota gift shop, and restaurant. I bought an Al's Oasis shirt for my dad, as his name is Al and he's a big nerd that will probably like it and wear it ironically. One thing to note about Al's Oasis: it's obsessed with Mellow Yellow. We didn't have an explanation for it, but there were Mellow Yellow advertisements everywhere. In the store, there was a giant Mellow Yellow display alter that was advertising a raffle for a Mellow Yellow scooter that sat atop it. Needless to say, I entered the raffle. Also, it was extremely cheap there. Like they got a horribly large overshipment of it that they'd been trying to peddle for some time. They had a machine dispensing cans of it for $.25. Bottles costed $.79. Spreading the word of Al. Mellow Yellow be with you, go in peace.

Then we went to 1880 Town, which just kind of appeared out of nowhere and was vastly more impressive than any tourist trap we could have even hoped to find. A family had maintained a town as it was in 1880, turning it into an antique museum in the process. It was extremely creepy and reminded me of the remake of House of Wax. Right down to the chapel with figures sitting in it that played music at all times. Also, it had a Dances with Wolves mini-museum, as it was filmed in the region and they happened to get their hands on some of the props used in the film, including the table he nearly gets his leg amputated on and some crates that are seen near his outpost hut. There was also a large, well-preserved saloon that featured a stage with a player piano on it and a dummy sitting at one of the saloon tables with cards laid out in front of him. In front and to the side of the place's entrance, there was a train that looked like it was from the 60's that had been transformed into a breakfast/lunch diner. We were too late for these meals, but it looked pretty cool. A few fenced fields away from the back of the place, there was an iron statue of a T-Rex skeleton standing next to an iron statue of a man's skeleton by the highway. Needless to say, I loved it all.

Then we finally got to the Badlands. It was a magnificent place. When you enter, it doesn't take long to get to this huge ampitheater full of the white and reddish-brown sandy waves and spires that generally compose the area. We got dangerously close the edge for the sake of photographs. But they turned out well. Then we drove further into the park and followed a trail down into the ravines on foot. There were no trails. They just let people run loose through nature there. The sign said to bring water, no matter how short the hike, but we didn't, because we were sure the area posed no "real" danger. It felt like an amusement park, with the paranoia of coming across a rattlesnake at any moment in the crevices that surrounded us. Sandy spires were at times at least 10 feet taller than us as we climbed and jumped along through the area. Honestly, I don't have words to describe this environment to you because it's so alien to me and the way I think. I'm not sure that we actually have words for it. Maybe I should say "natural dry dirt obstacle course." Yes, that comes close, I think. We went as far as we could until we came to a deep ravine and saw no way of traveling down into it. I think I saw a dead body at the bottom. A white cloth over a round mound and some kind of green material under the rock it flowed under. I think the mound under the cloth was a skull, and that the cloth was a t-shirt. I'm sure of it. Because there was no way of getting down there to investigate, though, I saved the heroics/insanity for someone else. Then we noticed vultures circling in the sky far away. Then we turned around and realized we were lost. We could barely see the edge of the big mound that marked the area where we had entered these crevices, so we just started bulldozing over shelves and edges and narrow inclines and slightly damp creekbeds just trying to find the familiar. But nothing in it was familiar, because there were no distinguishing features of our surroundings. It was all just a scary, sandy planet that neither of us knew anything about. We eventually found our way back, though, and walked to a safe viewpoint that displayed the depth of the nearby ravines. I imagine that the depth was a little more than half of what the Grand Cayon will be. We noticed the first of the five or so rabbits we would see in the park. They blend in well there, as their fur actually matches the dirt. So, when they're hunched by grass, unless you're looking out for them, you'll probably just assume that they're another bit of cracked earth. Also, they're very ballsy. Deanna got about three feet from one of them before it ran away in bunny terror. Deanna doesn't want to eat you, little fellah. She just wants to entrap you and squeeze you whenever she pleases. We also ended up driving for about an hour through the park, at one point passing plains that were absolutely full of prairie dogs and their homes. I was really excited about it, and it almost made up for not seeing any wild black-footed ferrets while there. Same goes for the bighorn sheep we saw from a distance and the last remaining wild buffalo in the world that we saw from a GREAT distance. In all, we were both really glad to have gone there.

Then we went to a place called WALL DRUG that was advertised all throughout South Dakota via cryptic old-timey signs along the edge of the highway that promised a bizarre range of things. We got there just as they were beginning to close up shop for the day and were very disappointed. It felt like that part in National Lampoon's Vacation when they get to Wally World only to find that it's closed for repairs. We still, however, managed to get some cheesy photos, which makes it all worth it, I feel.

Then we raced the sun to Mount Rushmore. The sun won the race. We arrived at dusk, about an hour before the nightly lighting ceremony, and during a particularly cloudy evening in the area. We still managed to get some nice photos, though.

Then we realized that we didn't have directions written out to go from Mt. Rushmore to our hotel in Deadwood. So, I had Deanna program Deadwood into my TomTom, and the voice of Herbert, the aged pedophile, safely guided us here. Deadwood is an old frontier town where Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickocks are buried and where bros and middle aged ladies come to gamble and drink. Mount Rushmore and Deadwood are both located in the Black Hills, which is essentially a hilly thick forest. It's very dark because there are few towns/cities in the area. Dark enough that the crescent moon in the sky above the driver's side was a bit of a distraction for me at times because it was too bright. It's also very foggy out right now. I think the last drive was ideal, by my standards.

I love this place.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Well, you got me, Iowa.

We both failed to properly prepare for this trip. Properly preparing would have been sleeping for at least five hours each before embarking. Deanna slept for two. I slept for about one. We had both been packing all night.

I’ve decided that I really love packing at the last minute, because it feels like I’m robbing my own house. But leaving all the big things and DVDs and CDs and and and. Instead, I’m taking toiletry items and t-shirts and miscellaneous small electronics that now seem essential for travel.

Having all these electronics makes me feel like the man in the episode of Family Guy that has just finished setting up a big domino line throughout a room that also contains priceless china and his hemophiliac son, Evan. Peter Griffin shoots himself through the air via a cannon and lands just short of the man’s window, then standing up and proclaiming “wow, this is a lot of really nice stuff” before vanishing. “Did you hear that, Evan? We were complimented.” Maybe this means that every city we pass through in which I do not lose my electronics or suffer their theft means that I should take it as a compliment from fate. Compliment accepted thus far, fate.

We’ve decided to occasionally hold speaker phone conferences with various individuals over the phone. The first was Ray, because Xiu Xiu made us think of him. The second was Sarah Eaton, because we passed into her home state of Iowa and wanted to know what her hometown was, because Children of the Corn was filmed there.

The trip thus far has been smooth. Deanna made it about two hours at the wheel before deciding she needed to switch with me in Valparaiso. I drove for about four until we got to the World’s Largest Truck Stop, which wasn’t actually very spectacular at all, though they DID have both a buffet and a resident dentist. We went to the gas station across the street instead, because theirs was simply cheaper and was also connected to an Arby’s. The last time we put gas in the tank was in a ghetto we were passing through to the south of Chicago while Deanna was in her road coma. She doesn’t remember seeing the drug busts we drove past. Two police vehicles were in the center of the street, lights blazing as their officers went in between vehicles that had been pulled over in the ajoining parking lot with dubious figures sitting hopelessly behind the wheels. I just assumed it was a drug bust. I don’t really know the scoop. I don’t really care. Let’s say they were aliens instead. Yes, that’s definitely more interesting.

I listened to my “soul doughnut” as I drove. There was a sense of panic, as there occasionally is when I listen to it. The sensation of still feeling vulnerable and being terrified by my own vulnerability. I don’t enjoy feeling this way, but there are feelings that linger, try as I might to force myself to move on. I still don’t know what to do about it, or if there’s even anything to be done about it. Waiting it out seems to be the only thing to do. Domino said I was drowning in a puddle. Maybe she’s right. I’ve taken to using that to explain the sensation to myself rather than the old image, which was Amelie crying in the kitchen, as I felt for the past year. Nino never comes. She is left alone, never to recover. Amelie cries forever. Drowning feels like it’s similar without being as pretentious. I’m drowning in self-annoyance. Now there’s a song from Amelie playing on Deanna’s iPod. Circles.

My vulnerability, however, feels like it is cast aside on the road. The adventure aspect of this trip hasn’t quite sunken in yet. I’m sure it will when we hit our first real destination.

[About 6PM]
We were South of Sioux City, Iowa when I suddenly realized I was speeding 14mph over the limit. I'm not used to automatic transmissions. It's like driving a go-kart and it gets out of control easily if I'm not paying careful attention. Unfortunately, what forced me to realize this was a cop car turning its lights on and crossing the median grass, heading my direction. $114. My first speeding ticket.

I have a problem with messing up. I was a sobbing mess for miles. Every failure is the combination of every failure ever. It's like I never leave anything behind or forgive myself for being human. And then I told Deanna I didn't feel like I had anything going for myself right now. Like everything I've worked for has already been forgotten and erased because none of it is easily transferable from Bloomington. I was feeling overwhelmed and the ticket kind of pushed me over the edge.

And while we were talking about what's got me down, the car beeped at us and told us we were low on fuel. We hadn't been paying attention for miles. My mom had warned me about the dwindling numbers of gas stations in certain parts of the country, and we were in one. We made it to a gas station just in time, though. Scary stuff.

Now we're in Sioux Falls, SD in a delightfully cheap hotel that is surprisingly accommodating. We're talking free REAL breakfast in the morning/two full beds/HBO/free wi-fi for $34.99/night. Nice. Deanna's upset because she didn't get here in time for Lost. It must air at the same time throughout the country to cut back on spoilers from the East pissing off the West. Rough day all around.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The H is O.

I still haven't packed. We'll leave in a few hours. I need to go to the store.

The plans have already changed. You'll find out what happens when we do.

Some might be panicking, but I am in top form. I work well under pressure.

We will travel through Illinois and Iowa tomorrow, stopping in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the night because Deanna's parents don't want us to drive all night. I'm annoyed, because it's only 13 hours away, and the Badlands are only 16 hours away, but the motel is cheap, and maybe it'll mean we'll be off on the right foot.

South Dakota is apparently apart of the Wild West. I had always assumed that the Wild West was somewhere near Texas, like in Arizona or New Mexico. But, no...Deadwood is in South Dakota. That's where Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock are buried. If planning this trip has done anything for me, it's forced me to get my historical geography right.

When I return from the store, I'm going to watch Dances with Wolves. Today I watched The Hitcher. Last night I watched National Lampoon's Vacation and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, as well as a few History Channel and PBS specials about the history of the national parks and a bit about the Alamo. I feel I'm in the right frame of mind for this adventure.

Now, off to Meijer.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some notes.

This dog-she's crazy. She's the neediest beast we've ever had. She cries on the other side if I close my door. There are three other people in this house, but she MUST sleep on my bed. Maggie in May, I think I've got something to say to you...

I need to find a skeleton key to give myself some secure privacy in my room. My family members are fond of opening the door without warning and I'm fond of being naked. These things do not mix well. Especially when my nakedness is potentially combined with a spring-loaded dog that would love nothing more than to dig her claws into me in her excitement.

Deanna bought an FM adapter. The music should now flow like the Spice. I'm excited to listen to The Growlers while traveling through the desert. And Grizzly Bear in the mountains. And Electrelane by the shore, wearing headphones, as is my seaside custom.

Last night, Kim suggested that I start putting together podcasts if I can't find a suitable radio station around here. I think this is an excellent idea, as it means that MORE people could listen to it, because it'd be at their leisure. Now I need a better microphone. And perhaps also a computer I trust. But it could be done now without issue, I think.

There is a job I'm going to aggressively pursue when I get back.

I'm considering building more shelves in this room. I'm considering building a hut in the backyard.

I may or may not be turning into Robinson Crusoe.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Slight change of plans.

The convertible is axed. There's nothing we can do about it. Her parents don't want her to take it. Instead, they want her to take her mom's car. It's newer and has slightly better gas mileage. But doesn't have a tape deck. Which means we can't use tape adapters for our MP3 players. Now we need to make mixes. I'm excited and annoyed by this prospect. 32 days is going to run us out of music pretty fast.

I'm also looking for my shitty FM adapter.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This car has the potential to flood with tears while we're driving across the country. We both left a place where we felt surrounded by people who care about us, love us, to come to a place where neither of us feel connected. Neither of us thinks that there's anyone here we want to get to know. We don't feel like these are our people. We're both pining for Bloomington.

I found myself in The Brass Rail, surrounded by strangers that regarded me disdainfully. A sea of black. Negative black. I came in toward the end of Riverbottom Nightmare Band's set. Shane was there with his overly-possessive girlfriend, so I maintained a distance because I felt that she'd be the type to beat me up or start nasty rumors about me amongst these strangers. Then The Lurking Corpses went on and I suddenly felt like I was watching apart of my own script unfold, just as I had predicted these moments therein. I typically predict well. That is my superpower. I let my head bob to the metal, not caring what the strangers around me thought, though I was acutely aware that these strangers had begun to realize that I must be apart of the old school to some extent, as I knew the material. Kendy was there but drunk and filming, and I didn't want to appear clingy as she fluttered from group to group, socializing. There was a woman there she'd been talking to who was looking for a female drummer, because she plans on reuniting The Beautys, this time as an all-girl band. I had mentioned to this woman that I also wanted to form an all-girl band, and she said nothing. In fact, she looked pissed, competitive. She was also socializing off and on with Shane's girlfriend, so I quickly decided that she was probably not a social option for me. So, I sat in one of the faux-leather booths and watched the crowd pulse. I felt like I was in high school again, sitting outside of the Harrison House for hours in between sets and speaking to no one. I had no one to talk to in those days until Joanna decided to approach me and then introduce me to others. I was never very good at introductions.

My emotions were already in a sorry state before this move. Before graduation hit. Before I even started saying goodbye. There are layers to this sadness, and Fort Wayne does not help. I'm not sure what will help right now. Hopefully the temporary escape to the West will.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A rough plan is in place.

Fort Wayne to Madison.
Madison to the Badlands.
Badlands to Mt. Rushmore.
Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone to Seattle.
Seattle to Mt. St. Helen's.
Mt. St. Helen's to Portland.
Portland to Eugene (couch/floor).
Eugene to Redwoods.
Redwoods to San Francisco (couch/floor).
San Francisco to Yosemite.
Yosemite to Sequoias.
Sequoias to Death Valley.
Death Valley to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas to Zion.
Zion to Los Angeles (couch/floor).
Los Angeles to San Diego.
San Diego to Tijuana.
Tijuana to Mesa/Tempe. (couch/floor).
Mesa/Tempe to Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon to Roswell.
Roswell to San Antonio.
San Antonio to Austin.
Austin to Houston (couch/floor).
Houston to New Orleans.

New Orleans is a turning point. We can either go to Mammoth Cave or the Everglades in Florida, depending on how we feel at that point. We're leaning towards Mammoth Cave.

New Orleans to Mammoth Cave.

Mammoth Cave is also a turning point. We could go home or to Bar Harbor, Maine/Nova Scotia. I'm leaning towards Nova Scotia but Deanna is leaning towards home. Mostly, I'm thinking it'd be neat if we could say that we were in both Tijuana and Nova Scotia two weeks apart because they are two complete opposite corners of the continental US. We will have been on the road for a month at that point, so we may both feel like just going home when the time comes. All the same, if some kind of miracle occurs...

Mammoth Cave to Brattleboro/Burlington, VT (bed/floor).
Brattleboro/Burlington to Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia to Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls to Fort Wayne (home).

Potentially 32 days at asphalt.
About $1,000 in gasoline.
A food budget of about $200 each.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home and then.

I'm excited about this place because it seems like it will be the endless stream of possibility. I am currently at a social disadvantage, but that will improve in time. Fort Wayne is not about happiness, Fort Wayne is about rebuilding a personal empire. It's like a giant cocoon, and I should, in theory, emerge free and prepared for something entirely new within a year. That is the plan. I swear. I will say, though, that boredom leads me to doing strange and unexpected things.

We will begin our roadtrip plans this week. We should leave Tuesday or Wednesday, hitting the road with full force. There are definite couches and floors to sleep on in Eugene, L.A., San Francisco, Arizona, Vermont, and Brooklyn. Hopefully, we can get to all of these places. I need to return by June 18 because Lilly and Terry are getting married in Kentucky on June 19, and there's no way I'm missing it.

Currently, I feel totally unprepared. I'm still in a bit of a post-graduation funk that causes me to sleep most of my time away. The room I'm sleeping in is tiny and I'm still trying to decide on how I want to position my belongings therein. My possessions are still in boxes all over this house and in the back of my truck. Can't stop the funk. The post-graduation funk.

I was playing a lot of music before I left Bloomington. Actually playing my guitar in front of people isn't something I've ever been entirely comfortable with, but always something I've felt secretly confident about. I'm considering bringing my acoustic guitar with me on the road. I will have to discuss it with Deanna, but I don't think she'll have much of a problem with it. I see it as a possible panhandling opportunity should we need it.

We will be traveling in her black, soft top convertible. Space is limited but should only be occupied by clothing, bathroom supplies, camping equipment and food. That sounds like a lot, but I'm thinking it should only take up the trunk space, leaving the backseat comfortably empty, save for the possibility of accommodating my guitar.

I wish I'd been able to spend more time planning this trip, but there's something in the impromptu aspect that makes me feel even more excited about it. Planning somehow feels pointless or against the nature of the roadtrip itself. The journey is the adventure, as clich├ęd as that is.

I want to see as many crazy things as possible. That's really the only thing we should plan for. Detours. A series of crazy detours.

Really, coming home to Fort Wayne feels like this roadtrip, in a way. It is the denial of the old plan to go straight into grad school. It is a crazy detour with practical purpose. It's like the time I went to Massachusetts with my family because we wanted to see the statue of an ancestor in Springfield, then found the Dr. Seuss Memorial Statue Garden about 20 feet away from that statue.

The detours are always the most memorable bits of the trip, aren't they?

Monday, March 8, 2010

The word is the wand, you magic motherfucker.

And your finesse is all that matters.
No one denies that. How could they?
Among foxes and wolves, can you really say that you're just a dog?
You're as wild, as lonely, as greedy, as driven, as unpredictable, right?
The world is your fucking forest, but who says you have to be real?
You're a goddamn wolox. A fog. A dolf.
A pomo-human. Who really cares how you classify yourself?
I certainly don't. How could I?
I have more important things to worry about.
Like songwriters of the Tin Pan Alley of American music's history.
Or the girl in the Starbucks box, her teeth fragments carefully collected and stored in a tiny, cheap canister.
Do you think she thought about things like this?
Shit, she's dead and unidentified and her skull is stored in a fucking Starbucks box.
She died some mysterious death in Indiana. She was probably a runaway from a different state, whoring to stay alive.
She's handled by countless undergrad Johns now. Thank you, Indiana State Police.
And her head's in a goddamn Starbucks coffin.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Obligatory warm and fuzzy feelings and guilt for having trouble connecting with other people and guilt for saying no to some and guilt for being so smitten for someone that doesn't care about you and guilt and guilt and guilt. But warm and fuzzy feelings for yourself and thoughts of being very very worthy and having not found "the one."

Happy Valentine's Day. We are married in secret much to the master's chagrin. All hail Lord Valentine. All hail the day of Roman orgy. The day the Roman soldiers would impregnate women with future soldiers. The day of candies and balloons and flowers and cards and red and pink and red and pink. Our hearts are black, and that means we're nervous.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I dreamt of a butcher shop last night where one could purchase any kind of meat. I tried to save the dogs they were slaughtering but failed. I woke up and felt unsure if what I had dreamed was real or not.

The human meat tasted like a chicken-pork hybrid.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

This was a "soul doughnut."

I didn't realize it at the time, but this mix has remained very strong and representative of what I love most. It somehow captures my essence. It doesn't necessarily contain my most favorite songs or even my favorite artists, but there is something very simple and hopeful in it that still lingers.

And there is a story behind it that I don't feel like telling, especially not in a public forum. Let's just say that this might end up as a soundtrack to its corresponding film someday.

"Did You See the Words"-Animal Collective
"Mambo Sun"-T. Rex
"Soul Love"-David Bowie
"Jique"-Brazilian Girls
"We're Desperate"-X
"Neat Little Domestic Life"-Of Montreal
"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"-Crosby, Stills, & Nash
"Step Into My Office, Baby"-Belle & Sebastian
"Get the Fuck Out of My Office"-Men's Recovery Project
"Ode to Billy Joe"-Bobbie Gentry
"Some Velvet Morning"-Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra
"Headlock"-Imogen Heap
"Natural's Not In It"-Gang of Four
"Heartbeats"-The Knife
"Turn to Stone"-Electric Light Orchestra
"To the East"-Electrelane
"Road to Home"-Girl in a Coma
"Elephant Parade"-Jon Brion
"Under the Milky Way Tonight"-The Church
"Strange Lights"-Deerhunter
"Hushabye Mountain"-Dick Van Dyke

Listening to it makes me feel naive. When I hear these songs separate and away from this mix, it still makes me think of the mix as a whole. And the story. It's like hearing someone's name said who you were very close to and then suddenly died when the person speaking it is referring to someone else. The story has nothing to do with anything like that, but it's the same feeling.

I can't recall having ever made myself feel so vulnerable with a mix. I never knew it was possible until this happened. I can't say that I want it to happen ever again.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


He punished them even to ripping open all the pregnant women.
By day they shut themselves in; none of them know the light, for daylight they regard as darkness.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.
Now you have shown me what we asked of you, you have made known to use the king's dream.

Cursed is the deceiver, who has in his flock a male, but under his vow sacrifices to the Lord a gelding; For a great King am I, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, "Be holy because I [am] holy."
The revelation of your words sheds light, gives understanding to the simple.

Then the Israelites asked, "Are there any among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up to the Lord for the assembly?"
But the Lord made Pharaoh obstinate, and he would not let them go.

Joseph is a wild colt, a wild colt by a spring, a wild ass on a hillside.
Majestic, glorious, renowned for splendor, a delight to the eyes, beauty supreme.