Monday, November 3, 2008

NH to CA: the long and the short of it

[photo: one last image of nh-- when i went shooting with rick in the woods (my .22, his .45 acp with laser sight) (fuck yeah), this is where he kept the ammo in his truck. in his son's toddler seat. i miss NH so bad it hurts.]

there are many reasons i've put off writing about this trip. 1, this will be the *fifth fucking time* i've written about this particular journey. and since most of my time was spent driving, that's not a lot of material. hell, there's not much difference between driving on I-70 and driving to trader joe's, except the former lets you go 85 mph and has more billboards en route telling you that abortion is a bad idea (more on that later). but whatever, here's this trip in a nutshell since i can't sleep anyway and have yet to find a pitchfork should things go awry tomorrow night (i do have a torch tho-- koreatown, here i come!).

after spending the first night in syracuse at an old friend's house, my first real "stop" was in buffalo. there was an article in new york magazine this summer about how buffalo is the new 6th burrough (eat shit n'die, philly!), with its cheap housing, and burgeoning art scene, and bike lanes to rival portland. when i was in buffalo, it was grey and miserable as shit, which is just a taste of what it's going to be like for the next 8 months, except it wasn't freezing fucking cold yet (those bike lanes are going to be under 10 feet of snow for 2/3rds of year, you idiots).

whatever, buffalo is a shithole, but because of that, it has some of the finest thrifting on the east coast, so i took a day to hop from salvo (they have 8!) to amvets (2, both the size of walmarts!), and, as always, found myself in parts of town that, despite having charming indian names (north tonawanda, represent!), looked like something out a post-apocalyptic version of the wire. i got a few choice items tho, and before long i was back on 90 headed to cleveland, my next stop, as maysan was there with her family for a vacation, and it's not a cross country trip without a maysan visit. even if i never see her in the same part of the country twice. maybe next time she'll be in north dakota, and then i'll be able to cross that state of my list. 45 down, 5 to go (looking at you, wv, nd, ky, ak, n'hi-- check yrselves).

[photo: still nh, this is the mud zamboni from the demolition derby. nobody believes me when i talk about it, but tada. sigh.]

one thing of note on 90 west of buffalo-- right next to each other was a fireworks & martial arts emporium (explosives and throwing stars, two great tastes that go great together) and a shed mart. so basically, you nunchuck someone, then blow their face off, then put them in your a brand new shed with the rest of your tools n'corpses. so convenient!

spent a lovely night in a highway sheraton-- far and away the best hotel of the trip-- eating leftovers and watching keith, then woke up early to meet up with maysan and the fam. her mom is just the sweetest (when she said goodbye, she said, "good luck with your career!" this was so much more appreciated than that "safe travels" horseshit), and her dad is like a movie star; he's mister community leader back home, and he carries himself as such, which is pretty intimidating and rad. my dad has a mustache and likes fart jokes, so, ya know.

after that, maysan and i decided we had to see the rock n'roll hall of fame, and while the verdict was unquestionably bad, the description of its badness is the subject of much debate. maysan found the "museum" to be like a chili's because of all the random shit on the walls (one of their exhibits has a silkworm 7", and another has smokey robinson's tour suit from *1992*-- this is not a museum, this is a shitty pawn shop), but i thought it was much more like a hard rock cafe with more emphasis on buying your own tchotchkes than $15 burgers.

[photo: i wish i coulda taken pictures in the museum, because these little kids walked through with us on their school trip and were so f'n adorable i wanted to die. in the crappy "doo wop" room they all broke out in a full on dance party. really, the only "educational" value of this museum is learning being a spazz in public 101.]

either way, aside from the crap listed above, other items included:
-an outfit worn by the singer of paramour (and no, it was not in the "future trivia question" exhibit)
-part of the plane otis redding died in (classy!)
-batteries throughout the ages (seriously-- in an exhibit on technology. fascinating).

i would've taken pictures of this, but they're nazis about photography because "some of the items have been lent to the museum on condition they not be photographed." why the fuck not? because the donor was embarrassed he held onto jimi hendrix's underpants? whatever. we left, but not before buying copies of the only photos they do allow-- one taken of you by the staff when you walk into the museum. i would scan this photo, but i don't have a scanner, so you'll have to trust me that having an image of me holding a drumstick, li'l zayd holding a tamborine, giant sinan holding a guitar (virtually unassisted- dude's a year old and change, he's got hulk strength), and maysan forcing zayd to look at the camera was worth every cent and minute spent looking at ye olde batteries.

after that tho, after a little research, we went to eat at the west side market, which was perfect, because it's just a bunch of stalls of different prepared eats, cheap produce, and meats galore. they also had cornish pasties just like my cousin dee gets when i visit her in norfolk, but these were in cleveland and not filled with lard. so we stuffed our guts, spent a little while at the children's museum (which is really a mall-esque playplace that a, costs money, and b, plays an endless loop of hip hop nursery rhymes that almost make three blind mice sound sexual), and then maysan headed back to VA while i hit the road for my sister's house in IN. i used to hate cleveland, but now, not so much. just the fact i paid money to enter a place that considers john mayer's original lyrics to "my public persona is confusing" (not a real song) to be an artifact worth putting in a glass case.

[photo: this was also available at the west side market, but surprise, we semites took a pass.]

i ended up spending 5 days here, thinking it wouldn't take me that long to get from IN to SF, mostly because i'm a moron. in fact, looking back, every time i take these trips, i find new and interesting ways to test my intellect AND FAIL ON A SPECTACULAR LEVEL. see: my decision to drive across 10 in 114 degree heat with a dog in the car. did i mention that i'm already booking my next trip in june thru canada? if anyone sees ways in which that could be problematic, speak now before i put myself through 2 weeks of cannuck hell.

anyway, i basically spent my time in IN being the house bitch, doing the grocery shopping and walking the dogs, plus changing my car's oil at an oil mart where the guy who "took my order" looked a lot like jay adams post-prison, way post-dogtown. also, my sister told me to go to the "good" grocery store that had an organic room, but that room was at the back of the store like the porno room at the video store. i felt ashamed for getting almond milk. don't judge me, i have needs.

my sister spent a lot of the time working, but we did get to go to the nearby candy outlet that coats everything in chocolate (a plus), and we spent a day in chicago, really just buying shit. it was so retail-y that we almost went to eat at the cheesecake factory to make the mall experience complete, but no. of course, driving into chicago from indiana means going through gary, which means inhaling gary and trying not to get sick. it's so strange this town that's literally minutes from chicago, that could be primo real estate, is actually a crime-ridden, burning rubber/onion/feces smelling wasteland. the jackson family is from there, if that explains anything, and i think it does.

[photo: click to enlarge because, while i'm getting ahead of myself, i saw this fucking enormous praying mantis in the parking lot of a mcdonalds (what, i was weak) somewhere in the ozarks. they're like tiny dogs with exoskeletons!]

oh, also while in indiana, my sister was kind enough to go with me to see "nick and norah's infinite playlist," which was just heartbreaking for me. i mean, it's a sweet movie, but it seriously made me miss new york in the way having to take the train home alone late makes you miss an old boyfriend, even if you hate his guts now, or especially if you hate his guts, because it's easier to long for someone specific than for someone that never existed.

the new york in this movie is like that-- familiar, in that at least 15 minutes of that movie are filmed on my old block, and one key scene is in my old deli (or a set made up to look like my deli, but there's the deli, there's iris nail, there's the bag store...there's my life from 1999-2006). but unfamiliar in that i'm an old-ass woman and even when i was a youth i had no adventures of that ilk. still, i see movies like that, and i wanna go home. and discover that one of the homeless guys outside of grace church is actually andy sandberg and not the guy we called "outside joe" who liked to sit on the sidewalk picking large scabs off his bare feet. sweet memories!

i decided to drive south from indiana because that way i could taken 70, which i'd never taken before, and cross another coupla states of my list. i also am an idiot, because, as i once forgot that june is hot as hell in the south, i now ignored the possibility that mid/late october might be tricky around the rocky mountains. so i drove out of my way in order to say i'd been thru missouri, eaten bbq in a gas station in kansas city (on the KS side), and stayed in a motel in topeka conveniently located next to a hooters. and also near some business called cox communications, making it the "chicks with dicks office park" as far as i was concerned.

[photo: the view from my window. cox was, not surprisingly, just to the south.]

one thing i did realize in topeka is that, whenever i pull off the highway anywhere with hotels, i end up in a section of any city, major or minor, that i call "little applebees." even boston has places like this off of 128, islands of chain restaurants, motels, gas stations, and anonymous anywhereania. so i spent the night in the little applebees section of topeka in a good-enough hotel with sign towards the soda machine that read "pop this way." it rained like a bitch, so i thought i'd wake up early when it was light and not thunder and lightening.

instead, i woke up early when it was still raining and dark. but the sky cleared up sometime before colorado. or so i thought.

the plan was to get through colorado, crash somewhere in UT, and somehow make it to berkeley by thursday night. like i said, i completely underestimated the time it would take to make this trip, so getting to el's by thursday dinner time was looking less and less likely, anyway (she and kumar were leaving friday morning, and saturday was her birthday, so i wanted to try and cross paths in the bay area before making the final leg south). i got close to denver around 3 and called teeter for her eldest sister's info, since i'd be passing thru her sister's (sis chris') town and maybe i could just stop to say hi. so i got the info, and headed into the mountains, thinking i could just get some dinner with chris and then continue on my way.

and then the snow storm started.

[photo: "shit."]

again, me no researchee, but snow in the rockies starts early, and when i say "in the rockies," i don't mean in the fun "general woods and clydesdales and beer" way, i mean, "on a road on the side of a fucking mountain." so there i am in my front wheel drive prius, going in and out of squalls, 12 degrees out with slush and ice, mind completely blown. i spent my formative years driving through snow to high school all the time, but never on an 8% downgrade, and never in a car that, due to its tricky hybrid engine whatever, keeps its wheels from spinning in any matter of slush, thus forcing you to gun it in order to go 40 mph just to get the fucker to move, high altitudes or no, while trucks are passing you and SUVS are flipping you off.

[photo: the view from chris' living room that evening-- snow, storm clouds, and several other things you wouldn't expect until, say, december. i know it doesn't look like much snow, but trust me, on the road, it was a flash slush situation.]

by the time i got to chez chris'n'manfriend, i was a bit shell shocked, and when she told me that the vail pass was closed, thus making it impossible to go on even if i wanted to, i was pretty much relieved. that's the fun part of all these major interstates, especially 80-- they have large gates that come down and just shut the road down when the weather's bad. there are signs with flashing lights basically telling you that you're fucked and to turn around, and that's it. i can't tell whether that's some cowboy shit, or whether the fact that new englanders plow through anything means these rockies types are just a bunch of pussies. moi, i felt like a cowboy, and chris was happy to let me spend the night.

[photo: small dog rodeo!]

and let me tell you, it was like a short visit to a spa-- my own room in a beautiful old house, hot vegan mac'n'cheese for dinner, brownies for dessert while watching rachel maddow, small dog rodeo so buzzo's hijinks were par for the course...just the greatest. oh, AND chris gave me this beautiful shirt dress she was trying to get rid of. AND her li'l ski town is adorable, and you could see the mountain from their living room (when the storm clouds cleared/finished shitting snow on my life). i woke up early the next morning and, after letting my car warm up in the 10 degree weather, bid my hosts adieu and headed west again. towards yet more karma.

[photo: the same view out of chris' living room, minus the fence and road-closing storm clouds. then the view from the road the morning after-- it's pretty when it's not blinding and frozen.]

i stayed on 70 until UT, whereupon i headed north to go to 80, which had a smaller risk of bad weather. i took a smaller road thinking it'd be scenic, but it was really just a trafficky nightmare through meth country (as ubiquitous at this point as little applebeeses). then i had to drive through provo and salt lake city, which are never not creepy, but i did remember to get gas in salt lake before entering the vast, serviceless wasteland that extends between salt lake and the NV border.

i've written about this before, and i've talked about it with others, but seriously, public service announcement-style, DO NOT drive on 80 between wendover and salt lake, UT with anything less than a full tank of gas. there's almost nothing but desert and dust for hours, and if you run out of gas, especially at night, the chances are very high that you will end up a pile of bleached bones right next to the fresh corpse of a dead hooker tossed over from the NV side. i had plenty of gas, but for some reason, my check engine light went on. i was pretty sure it was because the folks at the oil'n'go in indiana didn't reset the oil milage thingee (it's a prius thing, trust me), but i spent a good chunk of that drive convinced that my engine was going to blow up and my soul would be converted to mormonism before the body was cold.

[photo: this was actually taken somewhere in kansas, because there is absolutely nothing to photograph on 80 aside from a visual representation of suicidal depression.]

it's at this point, however, that i'd like to share a coupla general observations about this great land of ours:
1, i know i've discussed this before, but jesus really needs to hire new PR people-- for some reason he can only afford to advertise on stretches of road that have almost no traffic, or only on pieces of plywood spread out in the fields of a roadside farm land that spell out "GUNS" "SAVE" "LIVES" "CHRIST" "IS" "LORD" as you drive by at 90 mph. it also seems like the least populated towns have the most anti-abortion signage, which is strange, because if the town has less than a thousand people, and half of those people are women, is abortion really that much of a problem? is it because they need every member of the population they can get? or is small town america really that baby blood hungry? the ways of "real america" are foreign to me.

2, as i was making this trip, the whole "real america" v "fake america" debate was going on, but as far as i can tell, in "real america," people are vastly outnumbered by tumbleweeds, roadkill, and, well, signs that hate abortion. by this logic, our country should be ruled by a gutted deer and the word "KILLS." secretary of state would be a large chunk of limestone. U! S! A!

anyway, made it to elko, nv, that night, a town where i'd previously stopped with my father on my way back east last year to get some delicious basque food. since i'd gotten there later, and really just wanted to get something to go, i picked a mexican place on the strip that seemed hopping and got a burrito. then i proceeded to check in to the only hotel on the strip that allowed dogs, which was also the most horrible place i have ever slept in my entire life. i have slept in vegan co-ops, but this place had an even greater chance of giving me scabies. and aids.

[photo: the only thing on the menu that won't give you food poisoning. also, the one bright spot in nevada.]

another general observation-- if, as stephen colbert once declared, florida is our nation's wang, then it would follow that AL, MI, and maybe LA are the national nutsack, and texas the national taint. new england thru MI are obviously the brains, the carolinas back thru KS/NB are our gut, but the four corners are truly our country's sphincter (sorry, NM and CO, but AZ literally houses a giant hole!). CA is our buttcheek, and NV is a festering hemorrhoid where you can gamble in the bathrooms, smoke in the cancer ward of the hospital, and pimp our your children.

if utah weren't so fucked up religious and repressed, nevada wouldn't have to be so fucked up and trashy; if the mormons didn't have to wear special underwear, the whores staying in the hotel i "slept" in would actually wear underwear. or something. nevada is like if the show cops had an enormous theme park.

and i talked about this with sam in sf, but it struck me as i passed a prostitute on the way into the hotel that, as much as 3rd wave feminism teaches us to respect those in the sex trade, and that porn is a noble pursuit, it still would not be appropriate/considered complimentary if i said to that woman, "good evening, you look especially whorey, great top." nobody wants to be called a whore, and while you can't judge women who do what they gotta do to make a living, you can't convince me that it's something to aspire to (or that being a porn star is anything but being a prostitute with a visual record). i know, i know, i always ruin the fun with feminist rantings. my bad.

[photo: count the stains! please note: there are also wet spots that are less visible. i might now have a tape worm.]

either way, this hotel was so gross that i went to the car to get a blanket that i could wrap myself up in like a burrito and sleep on top of the bed (speaking of burritos, the one i got on the strip was so gross that i swear there were chicken bones in it). problem was i couldn't really sleep because i kept thinking that my car was being broken into or that i was getting crabs. so when my watch said it was 6:30, i figured i'd spent enough time "resting" and got ready to hit the road, sunlight or no. what i didn't realize was that i forgot to set my watch from mountain time to pacific, so it was actually 5:30, and the oil change place wouldn't be open until 7.

so i went to get a donut (casinos and bars, by the way, were still open) and sat and waited for the oil place to open, where upon a nice guy wearing some of the finest in urban sweatwear confirmed it was just the idiots in IN, reset the car, and sent me on my way for free. i was out of nevada by 7:15. but i didn't stop scratching myself until i crossed the border into CA.

ah, tahoe-- so beautiful, so woodsy, so not violating. i drove through the mountains again, this time not-snowy and pretty, and watched the temperature climb from 27 to 82 by 2 pm. i got to paisley's at 3 or so, got a burrito that completely redeemed burritos in my eyes after the one in elko that was filled with whatever chicken bits got stuck in the drain, and spent the rest of the evening in a daze in paisley's living room hanging out and watching TV.

[photo: paisley drove me past this two times so the second time i could take a picture. i am, as always, a grown up.]

sure, i was exhausted, but there's this strange thing that happens after driving that much where it takes me forever to actually relax. i know i'm tired but at the same time my heart's still beating so fast from all those miles going 90 and being on hyper-alert. so hours later, i finally took a shower (no parasites!) and passed out in giant bed in the guest room i think i've stayed in since i started visiting paisley in high school. so comforting in so many ways (ie familiar AND no crabs).

i might have missed elanor, but paisley and i had fun, plus i got to see sam, and generally do the friendsy stuff i'm so loathe to write about here. i also hung out with sharif who spent an hour berating me for not contacting his friends in LA and trying to be more social, and then another hour telling me how those friends are probably too busy to ever hang out. i really did appreciate his description of berkeley tho-- that the people there are so soft and vulnerable to predators, like a human galapagos, with their sandalled feet and bike rights and organic everything, they have no defenses. i feel that way about LA sort of, too, except instead of hippies they're just kind of sheltered mall dwellers who you could probably carjack without a weapon.

[photo: a catholic church somewhere near oakland that paisley and her dad insist looks like a huge vagina. pais even noted how the crucifix looks like an IUD. think about it.]

driving back to LA tho, i wasn't as filled with dread as i thought i'd be (altho man, was 5 in fine smell form-- put gary to shame). when i finally got to the 101 at the cusp of the valley and passed the vivid video building in studio city, it was also comforting in it's familiarity (but probably not without crabs). when i got back to my apartment, lizzy'd left my place in great shape, and after unpacking for hours, i got to sleep around 4.

and now...well, it's not awful, but only because, as is usually true, i have returned west with a stronger sense of purpose. and while that sense of purpose is usually an ambiguous drive to "do stuff," this time it's specifically to get work back east and never have to make that drive again, and to do it by any means necessary. what those means might have to be, i'm not sure, but i have a feeling this will be my most shameless year. i'm not proud of that, but five times across the US, and you do sort of want to stick a fork in the heartland and declare the adventure done.

that's my trip though. and who knows, it could be a good year. tomorrow might go well. molly and maria might get to keep their union recognized by the state, and norm coleman might have to say he lost to stuart smalley, and john sununu might have to eat sudoodoo...but i'm not just a liberal democrat from taxachusetts, but also a red sox fan, so my fear of the jinx will end my tirade right there. still, shit ain't hopeless. if an idiot like me can make it to and fro across this country 4.5 times without an accident, anything's possible.

[photo: from the sox game i saw for my birthday during the sept wildcard race-- the first game of a double header where the jays kicked our ass. in the second game, the one i wasn't at, we won. and now we're both in a rebuilding year. you do the math.]


Maysan said...

Yeay for the update! And so grateful it's on a day I need to be distracted from news.
If you come to VA again, we're less than an hour from the WV border. We could go there, take a picture of the coalmining/shanty towns, and then you can cross that off your list.

M. said...

Nick & Norah did that to me, too - they drove past my old apartment! - when I wasn't like OH PLEASE FFS YOU ARE NOT GETTING INTO ARLENE'S YOU ARE SEVENTEEN except that they looked about 22 so ... yeah.

The scene at "Brooklyn Pool" made me laff the hardest since I'd been there the weekend before for the first time.

Feh. Am so tired of Oregon right now.