In the country, a TV shoot means you are going to go outside and shoot at television sets, not be on TV. Remember this when you are choosing what to wear.
In a lot of ways, being out here is like being at the Odd Fellows Hall. I spend a lot of time on the phone with contractors, drink a lot of coffee and read a fair amount. However, at the IOOF Hall, I do not have to pay the contractor bills myself, I don't worry that the roof is going to fall off and shear my power and telephone lines in the process, and I never, ever play the xylophone late at night.
First Blood: cut my toe open moving a filing cabinet onto drier ground inside the barn. It bled like crazy but was otherwise fine. I need to remember that though walking around barefoot in the city is not without risks, the threat of lockjaw or tetnaus is slim. Out here, I don't even know where my local hospital is -- and unlike Seattle, just calling 911 won't bring the cops to your door in 30 seconds. In fact, my town doesn't even have 911 service. The number for the cops is 222-4680. I'll remember that next time I start grousing about property tax hikes.
I have spent the last three days whipping this place into shape. Mostly tossing away trash and organizing recycling. You get a whole new perspective on trash when you not only have to throw it away but then pack it up in your car and take it to the dump [just a trash truck on the side of the road, really] once a week on Saturday morning. At this point, I think I can actually hang out in here and not just look at it as a huge albatross of stuff to do.
If September hadn't already been a hugely image-filled month, this entry would just be pictures of the roof of my barn. I have a porcupine for a barn. The hurricane lifted up one half of the roof and flipped it quite neatly over to the other side, nails up. Good news is that my barn itself isn't trashed, though leaking. Bad news is that all the nice metal up there will just have to come down and more metal put up -- roofers don't take kindly to having to spend all day bashing out nails. If I can even get roofers, that is. I called every single roofer in all three phone books I have [the joys of rural living include multiple telephone directories covering about 30 square miles total] and got about three call-backs, many of whom I suspect will just laugh themselves senseless when they finally get to see it. I'm a bit nervous.
Back a bit further... the hippies did not trash the place. Well, not much, and I have a new deck bench made of snowboards. I drove up on Monday and Kasi ran out the door jabbering something about the kitchen being flooded. I scurried in and there was water literally shooting up from the floor. I found the shut off valve [after a bit of searching and dodging a blueberry covered child] and assessed the situation. I guess she had kicked a pipe or something, I don't know. After she left, leaving the place in pretty okay shape [and filled with rolling papers -- in the desk drawers, on the deck, in the freezer] I called Crazy Jack across the street and he came over and fixed it all up. Today he came over and looked at my brakes and wired in a light switch I couldn't make heads or tails of. Good neighbors are key out here. Jack is a lunatic and a sometimes drunk, but he has air tools and three dogs and welding equipment and tells me stories that make me laugh my ass off.
Thanks to everyone who's sent postcards [PO Box 14 West Topsham VT 05086 -- box only costs $10 a year, woo hoo]. If you want karmic credit, please try to write your name legibly. I have at least two so far that I cannot identify the sender of to save my life. By design? By accident? Who can say.
Full Moon Fidgeting.
I head to my place in VT tomorrow, mid-day sometime. It's about 3 hours away from my family which means close enough for a visit, far enough for no casual dropping by. Just to mark this moment in time, I am absolutely panicked at what I may find when I get back to my house for the first time in a year. Maybe the hippies haven't taken out the garbage in four months. I know my roof is some kind of messed up. There have been indications that crazy neighbor Jack across the street is becoming more and more unhinged. I hope my power tools are still there. The lady at the post office said that my mail had been accumulating at my PO Box "for some time" since I guess my forwarding expired in February [I thought it would forward to my mailbox by my house, apparently not]. By tomorrow night, this will be a done deal, whatever happens. Now is the slippery Schroedinger's Cat twilight where my house is both irreparably screwed up and better than I imagined it, simultaneously. Sometimes I dislike having a vivid imagination.
Virgo Month of Leisure is wrapping up around now. I think I did pretty well in leisure attainment this year.
Now that I'm back staying at my house, the trip is fast receding into my memory. The last places I stayed, I didn't get out as much, mostly stayed in and caught up with friends. I got a veggie gyro and checked out a few libraries in Athens Ohio. I ate at Rancho Grande and drank beer in my friend's studio which is a barely converted barn upper floor in Apple Creek, Ohio. I had forgotten that I used to drink beer out in my barn until that very moment. This was the most rural of all the places I stayed and really unearthly quiet at night. Then on to Somerville NJ where you can't drink the water because of the flooding -- people have tables at the ends of their driveways with gallon jugs of water that say FREE SAFE WATER -- where we hung out and traded library stories.
I got in to my Mom's in the afternoon just in time to see her off for the weekend. I feel like I should have a party or something, but I no longer know anyone in town. In fact, I just barely know this house anymore, I can't find a damned thing. So, I've been reading, playing with the cat who is a poor substitute for my cat and fixing up some of the stuff around here. The house has a truly crazy squirrel infestation as well as piles of stuff on every available flat surface. Granted, my house in Seattle looks a bit like this, but it's easier to deal with someone else's detritus.
So, I drove 3,900 miles, visited 16 states [two more on Monday] and stayed on or in 11 different couches, beds or floor nests [also two more by Monday] in the last two weeks. Darndest thing is, I'm just raring to do it again, as soon as possible. In the meantime though, I am teaching myself to type, using an actual manual typewriter. Mine is called Quiet De Luxe and once I learn to set the margins I'll be a typing fiend. My other tandem project was to make a whole buttload of envelopes -- for all those letters I'll be writing -- out of all the 15 year old highway maps in my grandmother's glove compartment. Been a while since I've spent so much time around rubber cement.
I am now in my hometown of Boxboro, MA, where I will be dropping off the car and swapping it for my grandmother's old car -- a 1978 Toyota Tercel with 50,000 miles on it. I'm going to hang out this weekend and arrive in VT on Monday to deal with hippies, the roof and months worth of mail. On my way into MA today I was getting off the Mass Pike with my ticket and money in hand and the woman in front of me paid my toll. I have no idea why. Updates and the rest of my travel pictures tomorrow.
Spent the day with my cousin who drives one of the only new VW Beetles in Kentucky. We mostly drove around and ate and sat around and talked and went looking at woodworking tools and visited the Cincinatti Public Library [quite excellent]. Lots of low-tech fun, lots of swapping stories. I have travelled much more in the US than in other countries -- the only state I've never been to is Hawaii -- and I always treat travelling in the US like travelling abroad, ask a lot of questions about how people live their lives.
As I originally envisioned this trip I would spend a few days with each of my friends and even take them on parts of my trip with me, but I'll have to save that for another time. Even this way though, I get to talk to my friends about how they live their lives and get acquainted with their own personal cultures -- microcultures or idiocultures. I ask a lot of the same questions: How's the public transportation? What do you do for fun? What's the political climate here like? How's the library? What do people around here eat? How did you make the friends you have? It's already helping me accomplish some of what my trip to Vermont is for -- getting some perspective about where I've been living for the past decade and reacquainting myself with the rest of the American world.
Not a lot of sightseeing on this trip so far. St. Louis has a really big arch which you can go up in inside of this scary pod apparatus. The view from the top is excellent.
My trip to St Louis -- a very pleasant visit with friends and strangers -- was marred slightly by the fact that I got word from the hippies who live at my place in VT that the roof of my barn got mangled by the storm. In fact, half of it appears to have detatched and is hanging over the other half. People are stopping in the street to look at it. Good news is, it's insured and probably even guaranteed [it's only 3 years old]. Bad news is, it's an immediate hassle that is waiting to greet me as soon as I get there.
I didn't get to see Emma Goldman's gravesite, thanks to supremely unhelpful service from a Chicago librarian. However, I did pull off outside of St Louis to see the Mother Jones tribute in the Miner's Cemetary there.
|"My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. For me, there's something about just going into somebody else's house. When it comes time to go, if I have to take a bus somewhere or if I have to take a cab uptown, it's like I've got a blind date... And sometimes I have a sinking feeling of Oh God it's time and I don't really want to go. And then, once I'm on my way, something terrific takes over about the sort of queasiness of it and how there's absolutely no method for control" -- Diane Arbus|
There is a certain binge-purge feeling to this trip. I spend long hours by myself and then long hours in the company of others and all their gear and friends. The friends I have been visiting have interests that overlap mine, but rarely overlap eachother. So when I was in St. Cloud, with my athletic librarian friends there were lots of animals to roughhouse with, and fun exercise equipment. In Minneapolis with the radical librarians, there was a house stuffed with 'zines and other reading material. In Chicago, where Ari works at the Old Town School of folk music, there are rooms full of music to listen to as well as a kitchen stuffed with food. I'm introduced to everyone and walked around town.
I must talk briefly about the Minneapolis Public Library. I try to visit the libraries wherever I am. Not only do they often have free Internet access, they can answer damn near all my questions and they don't care if you sit around and read all day. I got a tour there from my host's friend Cathy Camper, co-editor of Sugar Needle, a zine dedicated to candy. She showed me the pneumatic tubes where they send requests to the drones working in the closed stacks [80-90% of the MPL collection is in closed stacks, the pneumatic tubes get a lot of use...]. I also got a special tour of the Elvis Shrine which is in an undisclosed location also in the closed stacks. I also peeked at their enormous picture file which is just stuffed with subject-organized pictures, photos and magazine clippings. My personal favorite was the "Bad Roommate" file which included such images as the Calvin Klein models and that annoying Mr Jensen from the Tanqueray ads. I could have moved into the basement of the library -- always a fantasy of mine -- and safely occupied myself for years to come.
It's odd being out of center-of-the-universe world-class-city Seattle. I hadn't really realized how much of a weird boomtown Seattle had become until I stayed some time in other places [other places that aren't San Francisco, to be exact]. Other cities aren't constantly tearing things down and rebuilding them, though many are getting new stadiums. Other cities can't order videos from the Internet and have them delivered in under an hour, and they don't care. In other cities, 50% of everyones' friends don't work in ecommerce or at a giant software company. When I say I used to work at Amazon, it's sort of a non-issue. Other cities don't have to Celebrate Diversity, they just are diverse. I'm amazed at the streets full of little food joints I've been walking past. It's relaxing. Today we take a trip to Emma Goldman's gravesite.
Roughhousing with pets is one of life's sublime joys. Well, the dogs are for roughhousing. The cat's name is Rascal and I spent most of my Minneapolis visit trying to walk by him without getting hissed at. He is truly a piece of work. Long live Rascal!
Arrived in Chicago. Pictures are still in the car. Soon.
Some travel tips for long distance travellers:
I'm sitting next to one of MN's 10,000 lakes and it's actually the first one I've seen despite being in this state for an hour or so. How big does a body of water have to be to be considered a lake? This is the question I always ask in MN.
I camped last night in Johnson ND. One of those places you find in a campground guide that has directions like "go north 4 miles on rt. 218 then 1 mile w on gravel road..." but in reality, it's 12 miles north and then there's no gravel road but a long narrow unlit one lane path that goes over a dam and then meanders for another 5 miles. I was sure that eventually I was just going to get to a dead end sign, or worse yet, some local make out spot or bonfire locale. As it was it was a nifty campground with showers and soda machines that glowed all night long. Free too, I guess, since there was no place to pay. I realized as I was falling asleep that this is the first time I've camped alone anywhere that wasn't someone's back yard. I've always believed that all those weird slasher movies where the kids go off into the woods to have sex and drink and then get killed off one by one were government propaganda to keep people from straying too far from the cultural grid. I have spent a large portion of my adult life overcoming such fears of the wild and solitude, despite growing up in the country.
I drove about 700 miles yesterday. This would have been a long time driving except that I was in Montana, where there is no speed limit. Actually, the big question before I went on my trip was "so, what's the speed limit in Montana?" Everyone has a story about getting pulled over only to get $5 ticket "good for all day" or driving around at 120 mph or whatever. In fact, MT does have a speed limit, it's 75. I went about 80 and not once but twice saw the guy driving directly ahead of me get pulled over by troopers [one was right over the border in ND actually]. So, I was driving at what seemed like a resonable pace and the trooper pulled off the median strip like a bat out of hell and I thought "oh shit" and slammed on the brakes, only to see him go flying past me and bust the guy ahead of me. I have always thought that just stepping on the brakes to show respect was all they were after anyhow.
You know how sometimes you wake up and you're not sure where you are? Today I woke up and I wasn't quite sure who I was. I crashed out last night at a rest stop outside of Missoula and awakened at some nutty hour to an odd beeping. I couldn't identify the beeping and I couldn't identify my surroundings [basically a quarterberth sized area in the back of my friends' car] and I just decided that I must be someone else, and was waking up to someone else's alarm clock. After a while I came to my senses and realized that the cellular phone was telling me its batteries were dead.
Here's some facts about my trip so far:
miles driven: about 550 yesterday, 730 total so far
location: beats, me, it's Montana, here's a picture
license plates seen: AL, CO, FL, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, MD, MN, MI, MT, NC, ND, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, TX, WA, WI, WY. Canadian: Saskatchewan, BC, Manitoba, New Brunswick
music: Pixies, Bill Hicks, Hole, Proclaimers, Joel RL Phelps, Diamondfist Werny, Iva Bittova, Bell, Joe Jackson, Ben Harper, Wayne Horovitz and some Spanish reggae tape I have. I tried to listen to the radio, but the scan feature mostly keeps roaming the dial and when it doesn't, the radio says things like "are you good enough to be right for god?" and who needs that kind of pressure? I must say, the midwest is made for Aerosmith and Led Zepplin.
The Bozeman Public Library doesn't open til 10 so this is all stored on my laptop for now. You can tell you're in Montana because all the pawn shops are filled with snowboards. I had dinner in Missoula last night. I dig Missoula. People said hi to me and I found veggie food in the first place I tried. The Holiday Inn had a sign out that said "Welcome Rural Trauma Symposium"
My GPS kicks ass. I tell it where I'm going and it tells me how long it takes until I get there. It even has a little screen that tracks me as I drive down I-90. Of course, it's just a dot in the middle of a long straight line, so how tough can that be?
My house echoes.
I'm not even leaving for good, just about four months, yet I moved a bunch of furniture so my stand-in caretaker could move some of his stuff in. The place seems nearly empty and I am sleeping in a sleeping bag because I packed my blankets. The car is full of stuff and there's still a little rodent hole in it that I can sleep in if I have to crash at rest stops before MN.
Yes I'll still have email. Yes I'll be updating the journal. Maybe even from the road. I have my laptop, palm pilot, digital camera, GPS, zip drive, and a horkin' bag of cables, though I wouldn't be surprised if I leave them all under the seat once I get out on the open road. My car smells like coffee because that is my thanks-for-letting-me-use-your-couch gift. I have about a zillion tapes and a list of phone numbers. I can get my email from nearly any public library, though I don't know if I will.
Tonight I went to Hattie's, my favorite local watering hole, for a beer. While I was there the manager who always gives me a big hug when I come in told me she had given her notice there. "Too much politics" she said. I know what she means. It's time to go.
Two of everything. That is going to be my plan for packing clothes to make it all manageable. Two of everything: pants, overalls, t-shirts, sweaters, scarves, hats, jackets, shirts that button, pj's, long-sleeved shirts, shorts, gloves, leggings, skirts, burnooses [burneese?], babushka, trusses, whatever. I will make exceptions for underwear, socks, shoes and jewelry. I will also bring a laundry outfit for when I am washing all of the above.
Today I rode on a scooter for the first time ever with my friend Bill. I must say that I am surprised to hear myself saying this, but I can kinda understand the appeal. Fortunately, I am going someplace where scooters are ridiculously impractical, so I will have time to think about this.
Did you know that in every other country except for here, South Africa, and Canada, Labor Day is May first? I worked at Left Bank Books today, which seemed appropriate. Yesterday was the anniversary of Gerald Ford's assassination attempt and today is the anniversary of the assassination of President McKinley. Please note that the White House bio of McKinley notes that he was shot by a "deranged anarchist" while the Grolier Online version takes care to note that the assassin was "...an anarchist--one who rebels against governmental authority"
Getting ready to leave is making me melancholy. Trying to last-minute see everyone, say goodbye to folks I'm seeing for the last time -- for a few months anyhow -- and run around doing errands is taxing my reserves. Some guy yelled out the window at me "Go back to Africa!" at the gas station. The crazies are getting cryptic.
Happy 31st birthday to me.
Today at Bumbershoot I saw Pete Krebs, Stacey Earle, Larry Barrett, The Bixby's [their spelling], Lois, and a bit of this high-energy drum band Olodum. Then I crazily agreed to meet my Dad for breakfast tomorrow, despite that fact that I really should get to sleep in. Ah, celebrating with the family...!
I came home early tonight to do my big packing project: The Big Pile o' Clothes. In this experiment, I put all my clothes into a pile on the floor, and then sort them out into three smaller piles: Keep, Toss, Pack. The Pack group then gets sorted into Wash n' Pack and simply Pack. The Toss part filled the better part of two garbage bags -- it should be a crime to have as many t-shirts as I do -- and has already been removed from my house and sent to the t-shirt starved nations of the world.
I also returned to this phone message: "that is such a perky little answering message you have... right on. [or "my god"] that is so perky, it is so you. call us back. goodbye." There were children yammering in the background but no other context clues. I haven't a clue who left this message, or even if they were making fun of me.
I thought maybe if I didn't update this journal for a week, people might think I had gone to Burning Man, but I'm still here, just busy.
Tonight was the big anti-WTO benefit and it went over really well despite Pete Krebs' truck breaking down and him not being able to make it. Jim Page was there as well as Casey Neill and they were both amazing. I got to read a Barthelme story and keep Roger the host from drinking too much. I also met a lot more of the anti-WTO crowd and got even more jazzed about the stuff going on here in November.
My Dad and his wife are in town and will be until I leave [9/9/99]. We have been Bumbershooting. My house is an insane mess and I just may have found a co-pilot for my trip, at least as far as Minneapolis. He needs to get four boxes of pottery to MN & I could use the company. It just might work. My Austin detour has been deleted from my itinerary and I think I'm taking a northern route through MT and ND instead of WY/SD.
I have been driving the car around lately to get a feel for it and I must say I feel like a complete dork driving a new car. I don't think my friends who own the car are dorks, it's just wrong for me. I miss my truck already.
Yesterday I also got to hang out with my snappy friend Sharyn. She stays up late and talks even more than I do. I am gearing up to be on the East Coast for the first time [except for holidays and brief visits] since 1990.
The Scarlatti Tilt
"It's very hard to live in a studio apartment in San Jose with a man who's learning to play the violin." That's what she told the police when she handed them the empty revolver.
thanks to Richard Brautigan
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