The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for May, 2012

One-eighteen: Tour Diary volume three

Posted by ilbebe on May 31, 2012

Saturday, January 6, 2001- Tig cooked me some excellent potatoes and eggs for breakfast and told me the history of Alvin George. [Alvin George was a band he and O were in during high school. They opened for At The Drive-In in 1995!] After much fretting [read: dicking around] we leave Eugene at 4. Get to Portland area around 6, but thanks to Chuck’s questionable directions, we wind up in Vancouver, WA before deciding something is amiss. We trace our route backwards and determine that we did not miss the exit; Chuck’s directions are just bunk. [Chuck was another high school comrade of Owen and Tig’s who was also in Alvin George. His band, Try And Step On Her, was at the time an up-and-comer on the PDX scene, and it was him who got us playing at what turned out to be a pretty hip party. Getting to the party though…]

We eventually get off the freeway and find Chuck’s house through dumb luck. “Everett! Not Everett!” [The essential failing of Chuck’s directions was that since he lived on Glisan Street, he told us to get off of the freeway at Glisan Street. However, there is no Glisan Street exit, something R and I confirmed by driving the entire length of I-405 through downtown PDX four goddamn times before finally getting off on the Naito Parkway and cruising around down by the waterfront. It was maddening. Turns out we wanted the Everett street exit, something Chuck probably would have known if he owned a car or a map.] O and G pull up in front of Chuck’s moments after we do, remarkable since they got lost in a totally different fashion. O was furious, probably because they also went to Washington and back, but didn’t notice the “Falling Pedestrian Bridge” in north PDX like I did.

Chuck then directs us to the party, we get all the way to 38th before backtracking to 21st. We blow countless red lights because Chuck loves to yell out last-second turning instructions. We determine Chuck is simply incapable of giving directions. Do not play the lottery for investment purposes. [This is the legal disclaimer at the bottom of billboards advertising the Oregon Lottery.]

The party is in the Southeast at a house called the .30-06 house, after the band of that name who bought it with their major-label advance. I guess .30-06’s is a sad story all too common in the annals of rock; they signed the deal, they bought the house, they blew the rest of the money on drugs and other shit, the album never came out, the band broke up….but at least the house is still inhabited by young musicians who host killer parties.

First band: Machine That Flashes. Hardcore outfit with two basses, no guitar. Cool stuff, heavy as fuck. We play second. O drops many sticks, but it goes reasonably well. Bottom line: Day three of the tour, and we have finally played for an audience! Try And Step On Her plays last, they rock, crowd is really into them. They play an Alvin George cover, ‘Jake Is Dead’, and just generally impress. Cool as hell too. Something tells me these guys have little difficulty getting laid.

We roll outta the party and go to a falafel restaurant, my first falafel experience. Pretty good. Down to Plaid Pantry to get more PBR, then to Eric’s house (bass player from T&SOH). Liam (drums) is there as well, plus a few other people. I read the phonebook for the enlightenment and amusement of all: City Dog, Tim Cash, T+A Publishing, Mormon Young Adult Hotline (East Side): (503) 666-7437. It’s Eric’s girlfriend’s bday, she speaks of a roller skating party the next day. Too bad we have to go back to Eugene. Beaverton stories are told. Bathroom has  a curtain for a door. Hype [the film] is discussed. Hardwood floor for sleeping again.

We awaken and blow town, southbound at eleven. I write this as we cross the 45th Paralell again. Linn County: “Grass Seed Capital Of The World”. Bread from a dumpster.

[The non-sequitor of the last sentence gives you an idea of my rapidly deteriorating mental state at the beginning of day four. To be continued…]


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One-seventeen: Tour Diary volume two

Posted by ilbebe on May 30, 2012

[At this point, I start labeling Ryan “R”, Garrett “G”, and Owen “O”. Also, the careful reader who reads between the lines will gather that we had no show scheduled for this day. Why we couldn’t find a show in a college town on a Friday night, the weekend students are returning from winter break, I don’t know. At the time, I didn’t ask any questions, because by day 2, I’d already surmised that I was not going to get an answer that was either satisfactory or even relevant to any query I had, no matter how simple. I chose to focus on the small differences between Oregon and Arcata. Enjoy.]

Friday, January 5, 2001. Met Tig’s roommate Matt last night after writing. He works in an organic juice factory. [Even as a second-year HSU student, I found this almost comically idealistic. It was so tempting to ask him if that biographical tidbit got him laid or what.] I told him many very, very stupid stories about microwaves and Costco, some of which were made up. Then G and I walked to 7-11; most impressive hesher van I’ve ever seen parked outside. Once inside, we instantly assess that the van belongs to the clerk, a dude actively headbanging when we walked in. I had a “pepperoni meal stick” w/”PEP” stamped on it, G gets nachos with extra cheese and jalapenos. These failed to quell the upset stomachs which propelled us to 7-11 in the first place. 7 people in a normal-size cab pull in as we’re leaving. Walked back to Tig’s, bed around 3.

[I later discovered that 7-11 cashier was the singer of a metal band called Fuck God In The Face.]

Got up at noon today, went downtown to find all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, but there’s a sign in the window “Closed for one manth[sic]”. Went to pizza place instead, three slices and a soda for $2.50. Wow. Went to gas station and did not pump our gas. Record store, I bought “Beatles on Hammered Dulcimer” for a buck, R bought weird German band. NO SALES TAX! [Remember, not only was this the first time I’d been to Oregon, I am also very cheap.] Also: You can only buy liquor at state liquor stores, which close at 8. And you can smoke in bars. I picked up a voter registration card at a hardware store.

Back at Tig’s, we recorded our set onto 4-track for a new demo, sounded pretty good. R did interminable overdubs. [If you knew R, you would understand that this detail is hardly worth mentioning. Of course he did interminable overdubs.] A guy named Corey (?) and I exchanged scar/cutting stories while R droned on and on. Ryan, do you see the effect this overdubbing has on anyone within earshot? STORIES OF PAIN! Me, R, G, and Tig hit a burrito place for dinner. Good. Went to O’s folks’ place. [O’s folks had moved to Eugene a year earlier.  K and K2 coming along on the trip so that they could spend time with the folks lends a whole element of rationality to their presence that pains me to mention, but, you know, full disclosure.] His Grandpa tried to take G’s hat. [My grandpa, a few years earlier, had tried to take G’s necktie at our high school graduation. Coincidence?]

I’m listening to a terrible comedian on TV right now. [GOD I wish I had the name of whoever that comedian was.]

The 5 of us [band plus Tig] headed to Emily’s [old pal of theirs], hung around for a while, good stories, good times. Drank absinthe and beer. Tig’s comment on absinthe: “It’s green, like nature.” My comment: “It’s gross.” We walked downtown, G and I head to IHOP, the others to a bar called John Henry’s. I complain about Kaydee a bit. G pens the line: “IHOP and life to go”. We go home, rest of night uneventful. Buenos noches.

Key quotes: “What does our music sound like? What music made by guys with six-inch penises should sound like.” -R

On young people in love: “Yeah, they’re just so happy, and I just want to walk up to them and say ‘In six months, you’re going to be so miserable.'”-O

“You should try radiation.” -Tig

[The preceding quotes are not meant to be construed as a conversation, rather a sampling of the day’s pearls of wisdom.]

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One-sixteen: Tour Diary volume one

Posted by ilbebe on May 29, 2012

And now, let us abruptly shift gears to a different tale of travel, wonder, and self-discovery. The following is a transcription of the journal I kept during the Ill-Fated Datura Blues “Tour” of January 2001. I was nineteen. As you will see, Adele had achieved a considerable deal more than I at that ripe young age. Slight modifications have been made for clarity and, as always, to indulge myself in lengthy tangents. Enjoy.

[Preface: Meet the band. Ryan Jones, guitar. Owen Ott, drums. Garrett Kelly, bass. Myself, guitar.]

January 4, 2001. Thursday. It is of note that my trip started on a poor night’s sleep. Though I’ve been back in Arcata since the second, I slept on the floor at Iverson [the house on Iverson Street where seven of my friends were living in conditions that could have been generously described as abject squalor] that first night back. I was looking forward to a good quiet night’s sleep at my room back in the dorms, and I speculated, correctly, that there would probably only be a few other people in the building, enabling an good nine hours rest before hitting the road. But in addition to being too excited to unwind enough to rest, the fucking fire alarm when off for a half-hour starting at 1:30AM. The on-duty RA, a tall, ugly fuck named Anthony, showed up about ten minutes after it started ringing but was unable to either turn the alarm off or determine why the hell the thing was ringing in the first place. A maintenance worker finally arrived on the scene to assess the situation and gruffly mumbled something about this happening every winter during break due to carbon monoxide accumulation, but that failed to make me feel any better about standing around in the 35-degree weather in a t-shirt with a useless ugly guy and the least-attractive girl in my building making small talk for half a fucking hour. When we were allowed back in, I lay in bed with the lights off staring at the ceiling until 5AM, when I finally drifted off.

I awoke today around 11AM wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep.

Walked into town, $1 pizza slice, saw Jake Gantry, went to the House [Iverson], ate some more of Josh P’s food [Josh P was a friend of ours who had left a bunch of food to rot in the fridge while he was gone for a month over winter break], took out the trash. 3:00, the agreed upon time for meeting up to practice, came and went. 3:30, practice commenced, practiced two songs. [It is important not so much to note that we didn’t start practice on time- that’s pretty standard for bands. What’s important is that we really needed to practice, as we’d just in the last two months radically shifted the direction of the band and started playing a completely new set of lengthy instrumental songs. That we started late and thus only practiced half of the set further sets the tone for the days to come…] 4:00, pack up the cars, it seems as though it will be a tighter fit than I thought. [This is a massive understatement. We were taking two cars because, despite the fact that all the shows we had booked were via old friends of Ryan and Owen, none of these friends could guarantee that we could borrow drums and amps, meaning we had to bring all of our gear. This meant bringing either a van or two cars, and the best we could do with our limited funds was bring Ryan’s ’85 Maxima and coerce Owen’s babymama K to loan us her car, a late-model Corolla. It was only as we packed up the cars after practice that I was made aware that K’s condition of “loaning” us her car was that she would be coming on the tour and bringing her and Owen’s four-month old daughter, K2. As you can see, the alarming omens continued to appear at a frighteningly brisk clip…] Me, Ryan, Garrett in Ryan’s car, Owen and the K’s in K’s car, we part ways and “hit the road”, which is to say that the Maxima does not actually leave the Arcata city limits for another hour as Ryan goes several different places to pick up things and do last minute errands. We finally leave town headed north for Crescent City [90 miles north of Arcata] at 5:15. The show is supposed to start at 6.

Owing to the time crunch, we do not stop for me to hug Babe’s balls at the Trees of Mystery. [Do a Google images search for ‘Trees of Mystery Babe’ to see what I’m talking about] Peak speed of the Maxima, fully loaded down with three guitar amps, three guitars, and three adult humans, hovers around 45mph uphill and 70 downhill. We arrive Crescent City at  6:30 to find Owen, K, K2 and Hades Drug Gun [band from Arcata who we basically bribed into playing the CC show with us] standing outside a locked-up venue. Puddin Tame was the name of the place, little coffee shop in a strip mall. Handwritten note taped up in the front door reads “Show cancelled due to unexpected moments.” Odd. Our only contact info for the show is the number for the coffee shop. We decide food will calm our disappointment.

The Burger King across the street has a fascinating VR game center. Garrett makes a picture of his face on a monkey’s head. We flip the “Meat or Marzipan” token of decision for the first time to decide whether to find somewhere to stay in town [We were counting on someone at the show offering us a place to crash; you can see the bind the show being cancelled left us in here] or pressing on to Eugene. Eugene was Marzipan, CC Meat, and Marzipan won. [The Meat or Marzipan coin was made by someone at an art-night party the week before Christmas; the intent behind it was to take the notion of flipping a coin for decision-making away from the realm of money and into the world of dietary choice. Made perfect sense at the time.] I eat my meal plus the burger patty out of Ryan and Owen’s burgers, they having recently gone veggie. [This was a decision that vegetarians and friends-of-vegetarians will recognize as a very frequent pain in the ass when trying to find a decent meal out on the road. Not that I don’t sympathize; on the contrary, I have eaten a LOT of meat that vegetarians ordered because you sound insane to people from the redder areas of the country when you get a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s and say “No meat please”.] We press on to Eugene a little after 7.

Ryan makes a bizarre comment about K being our guard dog. We stop to take a picture at the Oregon border, my free pink camera doesn’t work. [No recollection of what I mean by ‘my free pink camera’. This may have been one of numerous barely-explicable inside jokes we generated over the course of the trip.] Finally stop at a Chevron in Cave Junction to call Owen and Ryan’s old pal T who we’re staying with in Eugene to let him know we’re coming that night instead of the following.

Hit I-5 in Grant’s Pass and I start counting the exits. [This was before California started numbering freeway exits; I was charmed by Oregon’s practice, which I later discovered was already in place in most states by 2001. Another strange example of the gridlock-plagued CA legislature lagging years behind the rest of the country in implementing simple practices to improve the lives of its citizens. Harrumph.] Town names: Merlin, Drain, Happy Camp, Curtain, Wilson. [I think I found Wilson funny as a town name because I’d recently seen Castaway for the first time.] Also: Jumpoff Joe bridge, Umpqua River.

We stop at another Chevron and see hot dogs 2/$1. We pass on this deal, as we did earlier on a “Large Hawaiian” for $11.99. [Obviously this must have been at a pizza place, but road delirium was already setting in and I imagined being able to buy a human adult for less than twenty bucks. This was my first visit to Oregon, Washington, and BC, and, expecting wall-to-wall weirdness, I started seeing it everywhere. Witness the list of amusing town names mentioned in the prior paragraph…] Hit Eugene around 11 after listening to a tape of ourselves. Find Tig’s place around midnight after thoroughly canvassing neighborhood in search of it. [Earliest such incidence of not being able to find where we were going directly because Ryan, like oh-so-many other people, greatly overestimates his ability to recall how to get somewhere in a town you’ve never lived in that you’ve only ever been to once. Aargh.] I try to go to sleep, but it doesn’t work. I write this. Hasta la pasta.

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Posted by ilbebe on May 27, 2012

It’s all gone. Whatever there was has been lost, stolen, or otherwise abandoned. I feel asleep on BART last night and woke up in San Leandro. One-fourteen wants to borrow five bucks from me and can’t seem to grasp the notion that I really don’t have it to lend. One-fourteen has also been bothering me with a bunch of stupid questions about Ohio, and if you think there’s no such thing as a stupid question, you should hear some of the ridiculous shit One-fourteen has been saying.

“What’s bigger, Toledo or Dayton?”

“It really, truly does not matter. Would you please shut the fuck up.”

One-fourteen can sit there and think about that for a while. Meanwhile, I’ll take the five bucks that I refuse to loan to such a stupid chapter to the Knockout for King Lollipop. Maybe I’ll see you there.

-12:43PM 5/27/12, home. Viva London.

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Posted by ilbebe on May 20, 2012

As I awoke on the morning of 4/20 in  Laughlin, my Dad walked into our room with not a cup of coffee but a souvenir lighter. He knew I was anticipating a call from the unemployment bureau, but no coffee. I flicked the lighter three times, and the third time it didn’t light. I flicked it several more times. No dice. When I went to the gift shop to exchange it, I barely got a word out before the girl working there absently motioned to just grab another one from the bin on the counter. I should have taken five. I took the call explaining that my unemployment eligibility had been called into question and was presumed invalid, got my coffee at a McDonald’s, and went back to the room to get my stuff and head outta Nevada.

A man named Mark Wimpee is running for City Council in Kingman, AZ, a discovery that came after  becoming aware that Robert Livingood is running for Supe in San Bernardino County while passing through Needles, CA, the day before. These funny names on campaign signs bring unnatural pleasure to the traveler, even if the traveler in question has only been out on the road for two days. From Kingman, we took old 66 through the exciting burgs of Hackberry and Peach Springs, the latter being home to a very nice  restaurant which offered a very different dining experience from the El Centro Denny’s of the previous day.  Nice work, Hualapai Nation. While lunching in Peach Springs, we saw Andrew Zimmerman arraigned on television, and damn, it was nice sitting in an air-conditioned dining room in Arizona watching that bastard sweat in Florida. Thereafter, my Dad started referring to anyone he didn’t like as a Zimmerman.

We picked up I-40 outside of Seligman, and rolled into Flagstaff around two. We parked the truck downtown on San Francisco Street and began a nice afternoon-long town stroll/inadvertent pub crawl. I was excited to be in a college town for the 4-20 holiday, and seeing a Bob Marley tribute band billed on the marquis of the Flagstaff Orpheum made my heart take a leap. The headline in the local paper concerned a girl who was on the verge of having her pet pig taken away, since her swinous co-habitor was residing in violation of a city ordinance specifically prohibiting keeping a pig as a pet. The most interesting bar we visited was The Mad Italian, an expansive place with a rooftop patio and a huge door in the floor  of the main room which we found open and begging for a lawsuit when coming back down from the rooftop.  No joke, the door is the size of a normal door, and right at the bottom of the stairs.

We got a room at the Rodeway Inn on the main drag, a curiously cobbled-together property than had more unexpected head-bumping hazards than anyone should expect from a 20-room motel. A few bumped heads and a brief tiff ensued, and my Dad set off back into town solo while I took a crap and read the rest of the pig story from the paper. The girl in question was originally from Buckeye, AZ, where keeping pigs as pets poses no problemo. I happen to have passed through Buckeye once, to pose for a picture with the 40-foot hobo statue that sits at the edge of a gravel lot in the middle of town. Coincidence?

My Dad called an hour later to report that he had settled in at the Monte Vista Lounge, a sorta-rathskeller of a place in a big hotel with a sign hanging behind the bar reading “If you can’t be polite, at least be vague”. I got a great feeling from the place, and after a few drinks we headed down to the Grand Canyon Cafe, a cool old diner I had eaten at during my only visit to Flagstaff ten years earlier. The decor and rock-bottom prices had not changed, and I finished half of my Dad’s chicken fried steak. The extra half-dinner was probably essential to not dying after returning unaccompanied to the Monte Vista and finding that their drink specials for the evening were six-dollar Long Islands and one-dollar shots of Chilean Tequila. I think there was a band? Sloppy evening, and I got Greek food with a dude named Dan who was celebrating his 27th birthday and his foxy roommate. After eating, an extremely awkward ploy to invite myself back to their place for some weed failed badly, and we parted ways. What, did it seem like I was into the girl? I WANTED WEED.

The next morning my Dad and I  headed out towards the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We were greeted at the visitor’s center by a ranger of German extraction who told us in a confusingly steely tone “It is National Park Week! It is free!” We slowly backed away from his unblinking gaze and continued up the road. A nice walk around the crater was followed up by inspection of some Native ruins further into the park, and also  some really cool box canyons. Wiiide open spaces, I couldn’t stop thinking about being a pioneer crossing unfamiliar territory in search of water. There was an interpretive sign at one of the ruins explaining that when the local wash dried out for the year (which was nine months out of the year), there was a ten-mile trek both ways to the nearest water at the Little Colorado River. Though far from a water source, the home was located where it was on a high point because it was a lookout; lookout for what I don’t know. Anyhow, it made me rethink how upset I get at two AM at my apartment over the nearest 7-11 being a mile away…

We stopped for some grub at a gas station in Grey Mountain, AZ, a place of business that existed not solely, but I can only assume primarily, because of it’s situation just outside the boundary of the Navajo Reservation. This opinion was informed by a boisterous dude who was buying seven Old E High Gravity 800 forties and lamenting that there weren’t more available for purchase. I bought a bologna sandwich, sunflower seeds, and a Four Loko to clear my mind of the incident. My mind was sufficiently prepared for Awe by the time we entered Grand Canyon National Park. We again encountered an overly enthusiastic ranger at the gate, but luckily this one was a portly older woman who lent no Teutonic chill to admitting us past an arbitrary line into a barren land with a smile.

The Grand Canyon is fucking amazing. Writing any more than that would be a waste, let me just say: GO. If you get the chance, GO.

My second evening at the Monte Vista iss more within my grasp of description. No six-dollar long islands, so happily I remember the band, The Fallen Stars. On tour from Huntington Beach, CA, they brought great tunes, great stage presence and between-song banter, and a damn good time all around. Before setting foot inside the bar, I was greeted by a dude with a massive smile who was en route from Georgia to Phoenix for work. He introduced to the rest of his crew once inside, and what they did for work I never did get, but man, what a gang. A huge dude named Shay repeatedly declared his love of me, Flagtstaff, the bar, the band, girls, and good times in a pitch-perfect rolling monologue of ecstasy. But back to the band- the second song they played after I walked in was introduced as a Steve Earle song, and when the singer asked “Anyone heard of Steve Earle?”, I responded with a hearty “Wooooo!” The singer looked in my direction and said “Oh yeah, you look like a Paul Westerberg fan too.” This elicited an even more heartfelt “Wooooo!”

Then birthday boy Dan showed up! And man, it was immediately clear to me that he had been drinking in the sun, all day. He seemed happy to see me, but his hazy, sunburned gaze suggested that he didn’t actually remember me. A larger group of his friends showed up, and things were rocking along nicely for an hour before turning ugly after Dan flipped out in the middle of talking over the next weekend’s camping plans.  His abrupt disappearance a few minutes later led to an exodus of his friends, who left discussing the most efficient method of combing the downtown streets looking for him. I stuck around until closing time bullshitting with the band and making the drummer’s girlfriend uncomfortable with my farting. Late in the evening,  a fellow wearing a Dorchester Local union jacket held court on the sidewalk regarding the ultimate filth women represented while trying to pick up on every two-legged example of said filth that passed and trying to score some coke for the cross-country train ride back to Boston he was about to embark on. Another great night in Flagstaff.

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Posted by ilbebe on May 8, 2012

Out of anger and out of love, I got out of Oakland. It is occasionally necessary to get the hell out of town for obvious reasons, and after breaking up with someone in the first week of April, I was really glad that I’d outlined a three-week, multi-destination trip that started in the middle of the month. The original thrust of the trip had been to fly to New York, meet up with my soul comrade J Healey, and spend a hot weekend in the city before traveling west to his old hometown in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, where I could exact various revenges on local idiots before we hopped on a train for New Orleans via Philly, Pittsburgh, Cinci and Chicago. After paying homage at the statue of IJR and a foreseen week-long orgy of pleasures, we were to continue west through several destinations in Texas, New Mexico, NOT Arizona, and Vegas before spending a night sleeping under the Santa Monica pier and then heading home to Oakland where J was going to resettle. How the journey was to be funded was highly suspect, mainly centered around several different violations of interstate commerce laws, and was only ever discussed in the most oblique sense.

Then J had a moment of clarity and decided that such a monumental voyage and radical relocation was unwise given his current state of mental and financial unease, so I said Screw It, I’ll Just Come Visit You For A Week Then. The newly truncated trip was almost immediately re-expanded when my Dad mentioned he wanted to visit Tombstone, AZ, in the middle of April. I invited myself, and he accepted, so the beginning of the 27-day voyage was set in stone: I would be leaving Oakland for San Diego by aeroplane, and after rendezvousing with my Dad in SD, we would take a four-or-five day road trip out to Arizona. After returning to SD, I would bum around there for another few days to catch up with some old friends before catching an early train up to LA, from where I would fly out to the East Coast. The initial East Coast agenda remained intact, with the significant modification that since J would be sticking around town instead of bolting, “Maybe we need to call off the revenge plots”. Undeterred by this new condition, I intended, after a week of subtle subterfuge, to travel to Philly and then take the train to Chicago to see my old pal Steph, then get home to Oakland by the cheapest option that presented itself.

May I humbly recommend the fine, soaring feeling that accompanies travel planning? Imagining routes, destinations, and itinerary items is free, like any form of daydreaming, but for me it holds a far greater therapeutic value. I suppose this could be related to my dust-gathering Bachelor’s in Geography…

The trip thus planned, I started selling things on eBay in a worried and sad attempt to raise funds for the trip. Despite my modest successes, a very rushed trip to the post office to mail in the hour before I had to leave for the airport left me thinking that perhaps when I returned, renewed vigor in my search for a job would not be a bad idea. In any case, I got the snow globe in the mail and made the airport on time, and a few hours later, my Dad and I were enjoying tall cans of Tecate at a pizza place near his apartment in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego and poring over a map of Arizona. After I expressed an interest in seeing the Grand Canyon, we decided to re-focus the voyage on northern Arizona to the complete exclusion of the southern part.

“Something tells me Tombstone ain’t changing” – my Dad

We hit the road the next morning eastbound for El Centro, where we talked merciless amounts of shit on that unfortunate place and its lackluster populace and unnecessarily disguised communication antennae. “Who gives a shit if the cell phone tower looks like a palm tree? They should focus their efforts on making that disaster of a waitress look more like a woman.” We cut north on a sparsely-traversed state highway and got nearer to the Colorado River as we passed through the bustling metropolises of Palo Verde and Ripley and stopped to view “Large Desert Figures”, also called intaglios, which were just that, large figures “drawn” in the desert by arranging rocks. The amusing thing I felt about these expressions is that we have no idea if they have been there for a hundred years or 5,000. It is hard to date things in the desert, and our waitress at a Denny’s in El Centro was no exception.

Shortly after viewing the intaglios, I was informed by a text from Shawn that Levon Helm had passed. R.I.P., Levon. Thanks for the tunes! I hope you feel like you got an adult portion:)

My Dad and I reached Laughlin, Nevada around five and got  a bargain room at the monstrous Harrah’s complex at the south end of town. I was pretty excited to return to Laughlin, having visited once before almost exactly ten years earlier on the final night of my post-college Southwestern Road Swing. The arc of that evening found me inadvertently separating from my traveling buddy due to getting on the best gambling roll of my life playing two-dollar blackjack at the Ramada, and culminated in me passing out naked under a blanket in the corner of our room after voiding the blackened contents of my stomach into the toilet and breaking a coat hanger in half trying to unclog the travesty. I hoped my return visit would be reflective of the trend towards moderation I had been half-heartedly flailing at for the past decade.

After a few beers at the hotel, we took an inadvisable shortcut through the landscaping at the edge of the parking lot to a huge roadhouse at the top of the hill on the main drag which advertised five dollar pitchers of Coors. This made my Dad dizzy with delight, as he has an unshakable lust for Coors which dates back to our family moving to New Hampshire in the early 80’s when you still couldn’t get Golden’s Finest east of the Big Muddy. That the bartender hailed from Keene, NH further enhanced his delight, and she indulged our curiosity about the Bike Run that would be descending on the town the following weekend with a few tales of casual violence that had occurred in years past.

A few hours later, we were strolling down the hill in search of the In N Out while I explained that the crucial oversight in my prior visit to Compact Vegas was a failure to eat dinner and regaled him with the disturbing particulars of that evening while we passed a guy fruitlessly trying to parse a schedule posted on a bus stop while fighting a clearly un-winnable battle against unconsciousness. I later gambled for several hours and came out even for the first time in years, which, considering the two dozen Heinekins I sent to their non-eternal reward, actually represents more like a twenty or thirty dollar advantage.  Ah, but Fortuna! How your wheel remains constantly in motion:

The next morning began with me walking in circles in the parking lot taking a dispiriting call from the Unemployment Bureau which questioned the validity of my ongoing claim and ended with me thinking I was screwed and would be best advised to cancel the New York/PA/Chicago leg of the trip. I slunk back to the room and reported this to my Dad, who, in as many words, said Fuck That and said he’d give me the dough to continue along. Thus it was with restored spirits that  we regained the highway and set our sights for Kingman, a section of Old Route 66, and eventually Flagstaff, the tale of which will be continued…

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One-Eleven, or, One-One-One

Posted by ilbebe on May 7, 2012

I was strolling across the Hill-to-Hill bridge over the Lehigh River towards the South Side of Bethlehem, PA on the evening of Cinco de Mayo, 2012, when I saw ahead of me a fellow standing with a tripod and  a camera bag slung over his shoulder.

“Whatcha trying to shoot?”

“Well,” he said, with an air of resignation in his voice, “I was hoping to shoot the moon.”

This struck me as a pretty hilarious coincidence. Only an hour before, I had lost the first bet I had ever placed on the Kentucky Derby by three or so lengths- Damn you, Dullahan, so close…anyhow, gambling was on my mind, and now here was a fellow talking about shooting the moon.

“Any particular reason you’re out to shoot it tonight?”

“Yeah, it’s a Perigean Moon.” He picked up on my expression, which read “Go on.”

“It’s something that happens once or twice a year where, by trick of perception caused by an unusual proximity of the moon’s orbit to the Earth, it looks huge; much bigger than normal. With my telephoto lens, I was hoping to get some shots of it over the old Steel Stacks.”

The old Steel Stacks are the ruins of Bethlehem Steel, a once-proud factory that manufactured steel that went into the Chrysler Building, the Golden Gate and George Washington Bridges, and hundreds of US Liberty Ships. Bethlehem, along with Carnegie’s US Steel in Pittsburgh, made the Steel that won the war in Europe; the Steel that put Allied forces on the beaches in Normandy and led to one of the more significant wedding/double suicides in history.

The old Steel Stacks, since their industrial shuttering in 1995, have now been re-purposed as a lovely little arts center, and though it’s hard to complain about an old industrial plant on the banks of a scenic river being turned into a space where children can paint, those Gothic Stacks will remain a testament to the reigning economic forces that have directed the American economy since the end of WWII buying and selling out our resources, both natural and human. To see them under the biggest moon of the year would perhaps shed a much clearer light on how respectable blue collar jobs at the old Stacks in the Christmas City have been replaced with service slavery posts at the adjacent Bethlehem Sands Casino. An Angle of the Living Autopsy of the Decline of the American Empire, which I feel we are in the final few years of.

But the cloud cover was relentless on Saturday night, and the photographer I met was not optimistic about getting the shot he had hoped for. I didn’t give the moon any more thought that night, but then last night, sitting in a friend’s backyard, I saw the still almost entirely full moon through brief breaks in the heavy, dark clouds marching over the valley. This made me consider how we rarely get dark clouds overnight in the Bay, and thus I was seeing the moon in a way I couldn’t have, seen it in five years, since the last time I was on the East Coast in spring or summer. This led to a pleasant reminiscence about “Somewhere Out There”, from An American Tail, a song that speaks to the universality of looking at the moon and the hope it proves.

The moral of the story is Go Places. See the mad desert moon over Joshua Tree at the end of winter, which allows you to walk around that alien landscape by it’s stunning and relentless light. See the sun come up over the Brooklyn skyline and dawn of another new day in the City That Just Can’t, Won’t Sleep. See one huge star over Bethlehem, and an old steel plant that now manufactures dreams.

-12:47PM, 5/7/12, Joe’s kitchen, Bethlehem, PA. Raining outside, warm rain. Rain you just don’t get out west…

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