It’s completely coincidental that I’m in my second National Park in four days the same week Ken Burn’s fantastic series has been having it’s debut on PBS. If you haven’t seen any of it, I highly recommend it based on the random bits I’ve seen so far. Point being, in my hotel in Big Bend there was no television, cell phone or internets of which to speak, so I missed the Wednesday episode. I’m sure there’s a lesson in restorative isolation that’s implicit in that sort of thing but it’s not a lesson I choose to embrace right now.
But as for Big Bend itself. There’s some great hiking, spectacular mountains and canyons, wildlife friggin everywhere (seen: four deer, a multitude of jackrabbits, this blue bird, many many millipedes, a single tarantula scurrying across the road, one big honkin’ green snake, tons of red-headed vultures; disappointingly not seen: my promised mountain lion). I left with the same feeling I had towards the Grand Canyon – a better planned trip would have involved some backcountry overnights and trails hiked through to the end. I’m also not entirely keen on pushing myself deep into unknown woods alone at sunset – in the three hours I was out I only saw two other on the trails, a couple heading back in early. I guess late September isn’t the highest of high seasons. Had I met my mountain lion, the odds of anyone showing up to help would have been slim. But it would have made for an awesome POTD, you gotta admit.
I dropped the dead weight in Albuquerque (she’s already home safely) after our hiking adventures this morning. So had plenty of room to stretch while driving solo south through New Mexico. The road promised a lot but didn’t deliver – a highlight that would have been was the Very Large Array which I was several miles off the interstate to see when the signage finally admitted it was 44 miles further yet. I lamely conceded defeat given that it was already 4:30pm. The second false alarm was the New Mexico Spaceport which other than a single highway sign never materialized. Both those situations where the co-pilot could have figured out how to better find the cool shit.
El Paso is a mindtrip – from the desolate wasteland north of Las Cruces, NM you drop into this traffic heavy megatropolis, with sprawling sister city of Juarez just across the Rio Grande. Not far east of El Paso I (and the rest of I-10) got funneled into a Border Patrol checkpoint to look for illegals. They didn’t ask me to unpack the car for which I’m grateful.
Anyway, I was excited to stop in Van Horn – it’s not as far south as I had originally planned for today but still a town with a fun name indicating a willingness to participate in my texas blog habit. Van Horn has about twenty motels, one restaurant that doubles as a long haul bus stop (lots of tired people heading overnight to Dallas) and a very loud and regular freight train right across the way. Maybe I’ll find something more exciting tomorrow.
Speaking of, I’m done with the interstate for now and will be heading south to Big Bend. Should be an interesting day.
Tonight I am in New Mexico, in the largest city (but non-capital), Albuquerque. The car is safely in a garage so it’ll be thieves elsewhere who make off with my high-end junk collection. Today was another single state day, a rate that’s agreeable and that I don’t forecast increasing anytime soon. We were at the Grand Canyon both yesterday and again today – a fuller set of photos is up now that I (temporarily) have internet, here.
Tonight I’m crashing in a real bed at a real house with real (New Mexican) food and real functional wifi, all courtesy of Team ABQ. It’s lovely, a luxury. We musn’t allow ourselves to get used to this. Tomorrow I will retrain my constitution by sleeping on exceptionally sharp rocks with a coyote chewing on my foot. Some cat allergy issues remind me any time I spend in Austin is going to have to be outside, despite anticipated nighttime temperatures in the low 120s.
Song of the day, A Life of Arctic Sounds from Modest Mouse. Eleven hundreds miles is too far inside a car indeed. So far I’ve driven 1269.3. I’ve reached the end of the road with my chief map reader and “this exit now!!” advisor and Google calculates it’ll be another 1089 before I pick up the second-stringer. That’s gonna make for a long and silent couple of days. Feel free to break up the monotony with myriad text messages. With any luck tomorrow will find me in West Texas, so I probably won’t receive them though.
From the time we (slowly) came across the Hoover Dam today (listening to Sugar’s Copper Blue*) it was apparent it was going to be a race against the sun to get to the Grand Canyon before sunset. We won, by a small number of degrees. It was beautiful. I’ll put more pictures up when I have true internet.
Tonight, real true sleep, the first in a week. Tomorrow, another state east, one time zone closer.
*Standing on the edge
Of the Hoover Dam
I’m on the centerline
Right between two states of mind
Vegas is open all night, unless you want sushi. But anything else, it’s there. But at the price of seriously chapped lips from the dehydrated desert air. Any more information and I risk violating the ‘what happens in Vegas, stays’ local ordinance.
The takehome point is public though – California is behind us, all other options are ahead. Today I teach VC how to drive a stick in the mountains.
Things are odd, internally. I’m exhausted, and that has thrown my judgement off and let me remake mistakes I should have moved past. I’m finding myself surrounded by what-ifs and alternative realities. But those, those are choices not made, false endings. And this, the curious and difficult moment I’m in, this is real. This is what is going to happen. And tomorrow, that’s when I’m going to make it tangible. This path, this is me deciding – not fate nor indecision nor least resistance. And San Francisco, I just want to say in this hour that this has not been a mistake or a failure for me. It’s been imperfect but I don’t regret it at all, not even with the road long ahead.
Everything heavy or bulky in my life right now is a liability. I’ve been executing a great purge over the last few weeks which brought me down to a somewhat reasonable subset of crap I used to own – excepted a few big furniture-type things in the process of being sold and some random junk for tonight’s experiment. Buoyed by the success of freecycling both my bookcase and lamp, here’s what I’m going to attempt to distribute to those seeking solace on the sidewalk tonight.
Heavy bag o’ pennies. Estimated purported worth, $2. Actual worth for me purchasing anything, ever, nil. Don’t believe me? We’ll you’re wrong.
Trash can w/ 42 hangers (blue, black tubular, assorted).
Bag w/ four pairs of size 11 mens shoes. Two pairs uncomfortable dress shoes, two pairs high mileage New Balance.
Bag with assorted non-perishable odds and ends from cupboard (emphasis on odd). Contents range from lentils to sardines.
So what’s staying and what’s going? My offhand guess would be the pennies & food will be gone, the hangers left alone, the shoes picked through and scattered. Will update on the morningside.
RESULTS: Everything but the shoes, gonzo.
ANALYSIS: People in my neighborhood have little feet.
Today was my last day of full freedom in San Francisco – I’ll be working off and on this week then skipping town next Saturday to parts unknown. I didn’t make any progress and have pretty much given up on the list, and didn’t find any scenic or productive alternatives today, instead choosing high energy stunts like nap taking, doing laundry and waiting around for people to pick up my unwanted furniture. But as yesterday was a twolonghorn day, recovery is required.
I’m not buying any more food before I leave and all my normal recipes are missing multiple ingredients so it was a major creative breakthrough when I realized that combining ice cold emergency earthquake water, two measures of lemon concentrate and some cayenne & splenda makes for a tasty some kind of thing. Tomorrow I’m gonna try a new recipe for hobo stir-fry (taco powder, a brownish broccoli stem, other wilted produce in the shallots/peppers department and identifiable but otherwise beyond freezer-burnt peas in a delicate rooster sauce/powdered sugar/coconut milk reduction). I put the odds at 1 to 3 that it’ll fall on the pleasant side of the lovely/nasty spectrum.
I’m putting out a request for companionship from Albuquerque, NM to Austin, TX via Big Bend National Park, starting on September 29th. Successful completion of this stage will be rewarded with my personal help in sneaking you into Austin City Limits on October 2nd. Companion will also receive a Texas-type souvenir, so say, a bolo-tie or a rattlesnake bite. I know your jobs and offspring and commutes and responsibilities and forms that need filling out and daily morning coffees and the reading and sorting of your many many emails takes up most of your time but seriously, peruse a while before saying no.
Let me tell you why today was more significant than yesterday. Or rather, given my penchant for the roundabout, let me just say I remember this particular day very well, and that today had a thick layer of deja vu smeared all over it. If I’m being honest & transparent, the road trip is officially not so hypothetical after all as of 3pm today. Still sorting out a few too many this and thats to say anything specific about the job situation but I’m definitely looking for riders. Preferably compact, aerodynamic ones who can drive stick and wouldn’t mind holding a box on their lap for 3600 miles.
All that, and the Patriots won on their MNF season opener too! Sure, in large part due to the pathological stupidity of Buffalo but a win’s a win.
This year I tried & failed to buy tires for my birthday, given they might be needed for some (theoretical) road trip. After that I tried & failed to buy a new shiny thing from the skinny & skeletal Steve Jobs. Ultimately though I did manage to score a bunch of fancy cupcakes, had a nice dinner with the Stanford Cru and by random chance got to see Kanye make an ass of himself west-coast live thereby letting me fool myself into thinking I’m less than pop-culturally clueless. All in all a good way to spend the gettin older day.
It’s been a week now since the experience that was Foss Fest wrapped up. This was the first event of this kind I’m aware of in Foss Park, certainly the first I’ve been involved in. Foss Park has some upside potential – it’s a nice little non-East Somerville non-Winter Hill area at Broadway and McGrath Highway. I missed most of the setup stuff due to flight-induced psychosis but managed to get down before the opening band (The Brooklyns) came on. I thought they were going to be more country than they were, but the crowd, though pretty sparse at that point, seemed to into it. I tend to like bands with dual vocalists, and The Brooklyns alternate between their leads (Maureen & Tom) for their set. I got their EP but haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet.
The second act was the pessimistically named They Will Hate Us. They had more religious iconography in their setup than I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been to my fair share of religiously themed musical events). I would guesstimate there were (among other things) 20+ Madonna statuettes on stage, which I guess is contextually appropriate for the neighborhood. Anyway their sound I’d call plinky and stripped down.
So that’s it in sum, a pretty fun day. The biggest downer was that Audrey Ryan had to drop out for personal reasons and a lot of people were asking about her, unfortunate. She’s pretty awesome & clearly has a good following. This being the first time through there were some publicity-type things that we could have done better that were more obvious after the fact but technically & musically the event went off without a hitch. Much thanks to all the volunteers and WMBR for their support (particularly Jeff & Mike from Pipeline) for everything they did.
Here’s the Layma version of S.W. Foss’ poem, The Coming American. I’ll post the CBOP version once I can find it for compare/contrast. See you there next year?
Some musical thoughts prompted yesterday as I was holding two dying iPods at 34,000 feet while desperately trying not to draw the attention of my incessantly yammering seatmate.
My mp3 archive has 17,839 items, which translates time-wise into 53.5 days. Since the computer I’m using is fairly new and I haven’t historically or consistently used iTunes, the ‘play count’ column indicates I’ve haven’t listened to 15,432 of these, or 47 days worth. This aggravates me, particularly for older albums with songs I’ve heard millions of times. Many favorite albums show zero listens (I’ve never listened to Moby Octopad!?! Yarrrgh.).
So as part of the effort to relisten to everything at least once I’ve started using smart playlists with a built in filter of (where playcount = 0) which will randomly pull in “unheard” stuff. If I manually put this playlist on my iPod, the playcounts don’t update in iTunes once I reconnect the iPod. It works if I turn off the manually manage music checkbox and put my faith in iTunes auto-sync, leaving me unable to control what goes on there (including my zero-listens smart playlist). The iTunes auto-sync really seems to think I’m hoping to listen to things that have non-zero playcounts (ostensibly, my favorites). The favorite-based sync is a self-fulfilling prophecy destined to lock us in to a small selection of the same old sameness.
Point being, I fail at iTunes, fail at recharging stuff before long haul flights and fail generally with some of the crap music I’ve collected over the years. Is it ok to delete the embarassingly angry music of my teens yet? Or will this stuff be of historical interest to someone? Maybe my non-existent children will be amused at my poor taste in music someday.
I was down in Allston today, looking around the apartment and taking stock of what would need to be done to move back in. I’ve only been gone a year but there’s been noticeable turnover in retail places – the Burritos on Fire is all boarded up, Store 24 has turned into a Tedeschi’s, Herrell’s is now called Allston Cafe, a giant new Walgreens is crowding up against Deep Ellum. Just wait, I’ll get settled back in and find out something unbelievable horrific has come true – like say Bagel Rising having gone out of business or something. That really would be the cruelest twist.
An idea spawned at a party this weekend – bring mixcorps online via 8tracks. I’ll start with some older stuff and see how much work this really takes. Here’s my mix from 2008, Up Up Way Down. One small qualm about this service – the track orderings will be scrambled on each streaming to qualify this as internet radio for royalty payment purposes. But still, legit mixtape streaming is pretty sweet. As always, feedback is welcome.