Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's All A Waste Of Time Again

I’m back home in Brockton, Massachusetts now, sleeping on my parents' couch until I move into my new apartment in Boston. After visiting my friend Sarah in New York I zipped through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine just to be able to say I visited 48 states in one trip (see map at bottom of this page). I’ve been to those three states a hundred times and wasn’t too worried about spending a few days in any of them. I spent the last night of my trip in the Odyssey at a rest stop, the way I spent my first night (when my computer was stolen).

In a couple weeks I’ll be starting my master’s program at UMass Boston. I’ll be doing DNA research. Until then I’m working at the farm in Brockton where I’ve worked summers since high school.

It’s very nice to be home—I was getting pretty tired, but I think I could’ve continued traveling forever if funding wasn’t an issue. For the first few weeks of my trip I really regretted the decision to spend nearly the entire summer on the road, but I got accustomed to camping and driving and being a constant tourist. I got used to visiting a new place every day and answering questions about the fanny pack. I got used to meeting new people and dealing with new situations every day.

At this point I’m very glad I made the trip so long. I met some amazing and generous and odd people, and I saw a couple cool things.

I was planning on summing up the trip and my thoughts about this country in the last blog entry, but I’m not going to do that. It’s impossible to sum up this trip in a few paragraphs, and I’m finding it very difficult to describe it to people.

I think I’m going to try and complete a book about the trip. It will be nonfiction, although I don’t really believe in nonfiction. I already have a pretty good start on it.

Thank you to everyone who’s been reading this blog. And thank you to everyone who let me stay at their place or bought me food or helped me arrange a reading or came to visit me along the way. I’m sending out notes and will try to remember all of you.

And thank you to everyone who bought a copy of the book. If you haven’t yet, please let me know what you think (and please tell other people about it if you liked it).

I’m currently working on a screenplay for my friend to consider for a short thingy (but I have no idea what I’m doing). And in addition to the book about DMR’s Road Trip I’m working on a weird two-story-line novel that I began before traveling cross country. It was actually part of the reason I decided to do a cross-country road trip. I needed to do some traveling research for the writing. The trip has definitely influenced the path the book is taking, but in different ways than I’d planned.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

If This Town Is Just An Apple

A couple hours after dropping Greg off at the Detroit airport my friend Eliza from UMass called to ask if I wanted to sleep at her place. She’d just bought a new house and had plenty of extra room. Up until that point I had no idea where I was going to be sleeping, so I drove to her house in a suburb just outside of Detroit.

I pulled into her driveway and her dog Manson ran out to greet me. Eliza was busy hauling bags of stuff out of the back of her pickup truck.

After emptying the back of her truck we drove into town with Manson running around the flatbed to watch a movie projected onto an inflatable screen in the park. We drank Pabst while watching Enchanted with the locals. It was a pretty good movie to watch in a park, but Manson was very irritable. He’s not fixed and there were a number of female dogs strutting their stuff around the park. He made whining sounds throughout the second half of the movie and wasn’t even interested in the gummy worms we tried to quiet him with.

The next day Eliza made French toast (because she’d had a dream about it) and we took a walk with Manson through the woods behind her house. Eliza never leashes him.

We said goodbye and wished each other nice lives because we probably won’t ever see each other again (this has been true with lots of the friends I’ve visited).

I drove east for a few hours. At some point, I realized it might be possible for me to make it to New Haven for my mother’s cousin’s funeral which was scheduled for the next morning at 11.

700 miles later, at 3 in the morning, I arrived in New Haven and got a room. It was the first familiar location I’d seen in over three months.

The next day I made it to the funeral on time and was very glad I went. I got to hear my dad read a poem he’d written for the occasion, a poem the rest of my family heard him read to Paul two days before he died.

After the funeral I drove to New York City to meet my Western MA friends Otie, Trevor, and Meg for dinner. We went to a Mexican place near Williamsburg, wandered around Brooklyn a bit, and then went home to sit on the roof of Meg’s apartment building. Later on we met a few people at a bar near Meg’s house. We left after some girl accused me of intentionally annoying people I know I’m never going to meet again (I think she was kidding), and ended up going to bed relatively early. I love New York and staying up absurdly late when I’m there, but I was still very worn out from all the driving the day before.

The next morning I drove to Hudson, NY to meet up with my friend Sarah. She took me out to lunch, then to her hometown of Kinderhook, NY where I met her parents, dog, and birds.

She also introduced me to the owner of a junk shop and a very old man who sold things out of his SUV on the side of the road. The only thing he said both times we walked by was, “Everything’s cheap.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Every Little Thing That You Say Or Do

I picked up my friend Greg in Chicago at 8am or so. After leaving the airport and parking the Odyssey we went on a search for some breakfast. I saw a couple wearing Red Sox apparel and flagged them down. I asked if they knew where we could get brunch and the dude yelled at me that they were also on a hunt for brunch. Before parting ways he threw in a few expletives about how stupid Chicago is. This made me miss Boston.

Greg and I finally found a brunch buffet and ate until we could eat no more. From there we made our way to the waterfront. We considered renting Seqways, but they cost $50 an hour. We then considered tandem bicycles, but Greg looks really bad in spandex so we decided to ride the ferris wheel and take some pictures of the whole city from up high.

Three or four Dramamine later, Greg called his friend Yasi. Although we had no plans, we tried to convince her to meet us near the water. She wasn’t interested in wandering aimlessly around the city with us, so we continued on, alone.

Hours later we made our way to Yasi’s apartment in a very nice residential section of Chicago. She and her roommate JRay had made chocolate chip cookies with orange zest. I’d never had cookies with orange zest, but I feel they suit me.

The walls of their apartment were covered with JRay’s huge framed pictures detailing where garbage goes at night. I enjoyed staring at them very much. I also enjoyed imagining her slinking around and photographing garbage in dangerous neighborhoods after curfew.

Greg went to bed about four minutes after we arrived. Yasi and JRay made eggs. I watched them cook and then ate the eggs. I was very glad to learn that there are many spices in addition to salt and pepper.

After a few hours of talking, making prank calls, and listening to a David Sedaris audio story we woke Greg and he looked like this:

I’m including this picture because I’m a terrible friend and I know how gassy Greg gets when he’s not in control of his appearance.

The next day Yasi and Greg and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago (where they go in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!). We discussed Corey and Topanga’s views on art. Surprisingly, Greg’s take on Starry Night is very similar to Corey’s.

One of the security guards told me her favorite section of the museum is the impressionist’s section. I agreed that it was one of the nicer places (though I don’t really know anything about this stuff). Another security guard was pissed that her daughter isn’t allowed to go home from school early when she has menstrual cramps. I was unable to be of any assistance in this matter.

Apparently when you tell a security guard that you used to be a security guard they open right the frig up.

That night we went to the White Sox Red Sox game. Beckett pitched and Boston won. It was Yasi’s first baseball game and she wasn’t impressed. The game started out kinda slow, and the presence of the third base coach really dismayed her. To her, baseball was more of a debate on free will than a sport or pastime.

The next day was my reading in Lansing. Greg and I were both sad to leave Yasi and JRay, even though Yasi did kinda ruin baseball for me forever. We arrived at the library twenty minutes late because we didn’t realize the time zones switch from Chicago to Michigan, but it still went well and a very good sized crowd showed up.

That night while trying to find a campground I backed the van into a pole and tore the bumper right off. Greg taped it back on (he’s very good with tape).

The next day we drove around Detroit and took pictures of all the skyscrapers. We also snuck into a couple and took pictures from the upper floors. In one building the head security guard escorted us to an abandoned floor to take some pictures out the windows.

Out of all the cities I’ve visited, Detroit seems to be in the most financial trouble. I guess this isn't a big secret, but I was shocked at how visibly depressed it is. I’ve never seen groups of abandoned skyscrapers.

Despite Detroit's current situation, I wouldn’t mind living there someday. A lot of care went into the construction of that city, and all the elevator doors and hallways have really neat metal and marble fixtures.

On the way to take Greg to the Detroit airport I drove over a bungee cord and we got a flat tire. Greg took the tire off and a very nice older man with super veiny arms gave us a ride to a garage. He didn't want us to leave Detroit thinking no one nice lived in the city. After getting the tire plugged Greg rolled it back to the van and I put it back on. Greg was really revved up about working on the car and wanted to do the whole operation himself, but I didn’t want to look like too much of a wuss in the blog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some Pains Just Ain’t Meant To Be Soothed

A few days before arriving in Minneapolis my friend Ali offered to let me stay at her aunt’s house in St. Paul. The whole family, including Ali, would be at Cape Cod in Massachusetts so I was supposed to have the house to myself. I agreed this sounded like a good idea; I had a lot of laundry to do.

On my way to the house Ali called to say two of her neighbors would also be in the house. Apparently their neighbor was violating several restraining orders they had against him. He’d also recently tried to burn down their garage. This worried me and I regretted agreeing to stay in the house, but after a quick visit to MALL OF AMERICA!, I made my way to the house in St. Paul.

The house is on a hill and has a plaque near the back door with the date the house was built. Apparently it’s some sort of historic landmark even though it’s only 200 years old. In New England a house that’s 200 hundred years old is practically brand new.

I knocked on the door and a small woman answered the door. I immediately got the impression that I was making her nervous, so I took off my American flag bandanna and sunglasses. She said hello and told me there was beer and wine in the fridge—I’m not sure why she thought it necessary to inform me of the house alcohol in the second sentence of our conversation.

After telling me I could do whatever I wanted she retreated to the living room and busied herself with books and crossword puzzles. I took a shower because I hadn’t had one in nearly three days.

Her S.O. (she said this instead of significant other) came home a few hours later. We both had beards and understood each other very well. I think this put his S.O. at ease.

My friend’s aunt arranged two coffee dates with bookish people for me. I met Jim Rogers at Coffee Bella. I wasn’t sure why we were meeting, but I always like to meet new people, especially people with any connections in the publishing and writing world. He asked me about my book and took a look at it. He assured me he’d tell some writing groups to use DMR and then he handed me the journal that he’s responsible for as the head of the Irish Studies Department at The University of St. Thomas. After talking for a while we realized was friends with a professor at the community college where my dad teaches. Jim was very encouraging and we discussed fact vs. fiction in writing.

That night I went to a book reading hosted by my friend’s aunt’s other St. Paul connection. The coffee date fell through mostly because of my lack of internet in the days leading up to my visit. The reading was good and well attended and I got to speak to the bookstore owner for a few minutes about my trip.

The next morning I met my friend Leah. I hadn’t seen her in years, not since we both lived in western, MA. And when we thought back to the last time we saw each other we both remembered an awkward encounter when I waved to her in the street in front of Woodstar Café. At the time she only limply waved at me, but she explained at breakfast (we ate at the Seward Café) that she’d found out her grandfather died a few hours before I waved to her. It was nice to see her and realize she’d been hiding her Wisconsin accent with its fluted Os the entire time she lived in Massachusetts.

A few hours after leaving Leah I got a call from my dad. My mother’s cousin, who I think of as more of an uncle or something, had died that morning. This is the man who met me for dinner on the second night of this trip, the night of my New Haven reading, the day after my laptop was stolen. He had glioblastoma multiforme and lived years longer than anyone predicted he would. I’m going to miss the funeral because of this trip. Paul was always very supportive of my writing and after finishing my first book he sent me a very nice note with a poem by Olav H. Hauge, a Norwegian.

On Friday night I had my Milwaukee reading at Darling Hall where everyone talks like the mom in Bobby’s World. It was a great experience and I met like ten awesome people. The reading didn’t start until about 10:30 p.m. but we got a good little group together. When I finished reading Jon Burks played guitar and sang ten or so really great songs. I got three of his CDs for friends.

I stayed in the apartment above the hall that night and met Kati, the funniest girl I’ve ever met (except for maybe Tunch), and her roommate (also Kati but I’m not sure of the spelling), a freegan. Kati O. showed me through her cupboard and told me which dumpsters she’s pulled various food items out of, and she offered me pot butter for my toast.

Outside their building they’ve built a pretty impressive garden with about a dozen varieties of vegetables crammed into a small space. Despite the small amount of light that makes it into the small yard/alley they have corn that looks like it’s doing pretty well. They water everything with water that’s reclaimed from their shower (they have to use natural soaps). And all the piping has been removed from under the sink and replaced with a bucket that they use to flush the toilet when it gets full enough of handwashing and toothbrushing water.

If I ever publish another book I’d definitely love to go back to Darling Hall. I think I’m probably a little less revolutionary than the people they usually have for concerts and readings, but hopefully they’ll allow me to read again.

From Milwaukee I drove to Kenosha, Wisconsin. My cousin had gotten married the night before and they were having a barbecue to celebrate. They insisted I come over even though I worried I was intruding. I appreciated this immensely; I had no plans of where to sleep that night.

As soon as I got there my cousin made me a frozen Phil’s hard lemonade. Then my uncle Bob grilled me a smoked turkey leg. I ate pretty much the whole thing and proceeded to eat a couple hot dogs and a burger.

After dinner we played touch football with the four or five little kids at the party. My cousin Rory quarterbacked for one team and I for the other. In eight minutes of play we both managed to make a ten-year old cry. I accidentally nailed some kid in the chest with the ball and Rory accidentally grabbed one of their ears. The final score was tied 7-7, and this didn’t sit well with either Rory or me.

Rory and I discussed our last foot race, when he was about 12 and I was 22 or something. I’m not the nice kind of cousin who lets other cousins (no matter how young) win, and Rory still had some pent up rage about this incident. I suggested we race again and Rory agreed. Phil would be the official and we were to run about 60 meters. Rory was wearing basketball sneakers but I was in jeans, so we figured we were pretty even.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m 26 and Rory is 16. He’s just about as tall as me and much more athletic and strong than I was at his age.

We got set and started when Phil dropped his arms at the finish line. I got out much quicker than Rory and extended my lead through the first 30 meters or so. I kind of let up at this point and began striding (I get tired quickly these days and don’t like to work any harder than I have to), but as we neared the 45 meter mark I heard Rory’s turnover quicken—he was saving stuff for the end, trying to make me look like a fool! The fact that Rory thought he could outstrategize me in a 60 meter race enraged me. Suddenly the race became much more serious and I felt as if I was running against old age.

I woke up and transitioned back into sprinting mode (not an easy thing for a 26 year old to do) just in time to keep him safely behind me. I won by about 6 inches (maybe less). Most of the people there were shocked because Rory is known to be a good athlete and I look like a hairy dump truck at this point in my trip.

Although he tried to hide it, Rory was very unhappy with the outcome of the race. He asked for a rematch and I just laughed. In less than two years Rory will be my superior in every way—stronger, smarter, faster, and about six inches taller. I can’t believe he thought I’d be willing to risk the glory of what will probably be the last great physical victory of my life as a young man.

But if it’s any consolation to him, the race (and the turkey and Phil’s hard lemonade) did give me a pretty nasty case of hypodtodenarunnit (I had to press my face against the cool stones of the patio for twenty minutes to keep from booting). And in the end, I guess Rory did pretty good . . . for a boy.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Buy A Yacht With A Flag Sayin' Chillin' The Most

Danielle and I left the Badlands and headed to Mt. Rushmore. The mountain itself and the faces on it are smaller than we thought they would be. What impressed us more than the landmark was the number of Harley Davidsons in the area. Every parking spot in the town was taken up by bikes and the roads were congested with them.

Through reading t-shirts and asking questions we realized we had accidentally arrived at the beginning of the Sturgis bike rally (the second biggest bike rally in the country). We’d only planned on staying in Keystone (the town Rushmore is in) for an hour or so, but we changed our plans and decided to spend the night in town. After checking out four or five motels we found a room for $100. All the prices were jacked up for the rally.

I bought an American flag bandanna and we went out to experience bikers after dark. Things weren’t as raucous as we’d hoped and we went back to our room relatively early.

The next day we went horseback riding in the Black Hills. It was my first time on a horse, which made our guide kinda nervous, but things went well. Cory the Cowboy told me the horse would sense I didn’t know what I was doing, and Cory was right. My horse wandered off the path to eat grass every chance he got. Felon, my horse, was trained by prisoners—I didn’t really feel comfortable kicking him.

Cory told us all about Sturgis. He’d only been once, but he knew all about it. Celebrities like Hulk Hogan, Kid Rock, the OC chopper guys, and Hue Heffner often show up. Cory also told us that women like to ride their bikes topless at Sturgis.

We didn’t realize it initially, but the Sturgis rally is actually in a town called Sturgis. The excess bikes end up in Keystone and Deadwood and the surrounding area. After talking with Cory, Danielle and I decided we had to go to the epicenter of Sturgis.

On the way to Sturgis we gambled a few bucks in Deadwood and visited the grave of Wild Bill Hickock.

That night (still wearing my American flag bandanna) we headed to Sturgis to see what 250,000 bikers are like after dark. Danielle bought a shirt with skulls on it and we fit right in with everyone else. My minivan looked a little funny parked amongst a sea of bikes, but no one said anything. And we actually saw a good number of bikers wearing fanny packs, but most of them were Harley Davidson brand fanny packs and didn’t have twin water bottles tucked into them.

We went to a concert where Rachael Stacy (an E.G. Dailey Better Off Dead lookalike) was performing. People danced in the sand in front of the stage. Most of the dancers were middle-aged women wearing leather chaps with thongs underneath. I couldn’t help wondering how many kids each of them had at home.

We only saw one topless woman riding a bike. Thanks a lot, Cory.

The next day we drove to my reading in Bismarck. Ann Mayher, the head of the friends of the library, set everything up. She and her husband took us to a reproduction of Colonel Custer’s house before the reading. The tour guide (who was in character for the Custer era) asked if any of us played the piano. Danielle nudged me and I raised my hand. He asked me to play something. I banged out the first few measures of Norwegian Concerto, but the piano was incredibly out of tune and it sounded like garbage. The guide then picked up a well-tuned violin and played a few tunes. It was a rotten trick.

The reading went well. 15 people showed up and I sold nine books—not a huge crowd, but I think it’s the best ratio of people to sales that I’ve had all tour (other than the release party composed of friends and family).

I have a reading at Darling Hall in Milwaukee tonight and I have to go help set up so I’m gonna cut this kinda short.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Don’t Call It A Comeback!/Sweet Southern Woman Sit On My Lap

I’ve done a lot of sightseeing in the last few days.

From Grand Teton I drove to Salt Lake City. I spent most of my time wandering around the Mormon center. It wasn’t as weird and creepy as I’d thought it would be. My friend Ben is from Salt Lake City and he doesn’t speak highly of the area; in fact, I’m pretty sure he hates Salt Lake City and the entire state of Utah. I think it satisfied him to hear I didn’t have the time of my life there.

It wasn’t a bad city, and like I said, the Mormon church headquarters wasn’t as weird as I’d thought it would be, but nothing really happened there. Many of the Mormons watched me closely as I took pictures of their church and the surrounding buildings, but none of them talked to me, not even the ones in clothing from the 19th century (orthodox Mormons?) who’d obviously been strategically placed to help visitors.

I swam in the Great Salt Lake. The area surrounding it smells of really stank methane, but your toes stick out of the water when you float on your back.

From there I drove to southern Wyoming.

I camped just outside of Cheyenne in a KOA campground (despite their unsettling practice of spelling every C word with a K—Kampgrounds of America). All the sites surrounding mine were taken up by bikers. A couple of them sat at their picnic tables reading novels until dark.

I cooked my dinner at the communal stove (KOAs are a little less rustic than state parks) next to a French speaking family who were laughing about the fact that the mother had forgotten to bring lots of things they needed on their United States trip. I made tuna and rice and they sat their watching me cook and eat with bemused expressions on their faces.

The next day I drove to the Rocky Mountain National Park and camped in a private campground pretty high up in the Mountains. The park ranger told me to watch out for bears. They’ve been particularly active in the area this year. The ranger said he’s seen bear 12 times this summer.

I had no phone service in the park and left the next morning in time to meet Danielle’s plane. I arrived in a small town at the foot of the mountains and saw that I had a few phone messages. Danielle’s flight had been changed, but her Expedia tickets hadn’t been updated. By the time the problem got fixed it was too late and she had to buy new tickets from JetBlue. She’s pretty sure she’ll be reimbursed for the second set of tickets.

When she finally arrived we went out to eat and explored Denver a little bit. We camped in the Rockies again, in a different site, and received the same warning about bears. The ranger didn’t remember me.

We slept without the rain fly and saw more stars than either of us has seen in a while, including four or five shooting stars.

The next morning we ate at Waffle House and washed up in the bathroom there (there were no showers at our Rockies campsite.

For lunch we ate at a Sonic. I’d never eaten there before and Danielle had promised to show me how it’s done. About a month ago I drove into a Sonic, determined to add yet another new fast food joint to my growing list, but I got freaked out by the ordering stations and intercom system and sped off in the Odyssey before actually ordering any food. I feel kind of silly about this after seeing how easy it is to get Sonic food, but I still don’t understand why a person would prefer to eat in the car.

From there we drove to Cheyenne where we talked to a woman wearing an eye patch. She complained about not being able to walk very well and about having poor vision in one eye, the eye not covered by the eye patch. She gave us a map and told us all about the various free museums in Cheyenne (we told her we were pretty strapped for cash). I told her about my trip and she seemed pretty amazed at the amount of gas I’m using.

Walking through Cheyenne felt like taking a few steps backwards, at least as far as this trip goes. The city feels rather southern. All the restaurants and stores play country music and there are many boot and cowboy hat stores, in addition to a huge Wrangler outlet. We browsed through some thrift stores and flea markets. I’d love to go back sometime when I have more money.

From there we went to Wounded Knee in South Dakota. I didn’t know much about the story of the massacre at Wounded Knee, but Danielle insisted we go.

The town is within a reservation, as is the Badlands where we camped that night. Most of the Indians we saw lived in trailer homes and the land surrounding them doesn’t seem good for much. It’s dry earth with parched grass and odd outcroppings of sandstone that look as though they’ve been punched up through the surface of the earth.

The hand painted sign off to the side of the road tells the story of The Massacre at Wounded Knee. The word Massacre is painted on a separate piece of wood that’s been nailed over whatever word is underneath, and both of us wondered what the old word is.

Across the street from the sign a dirt road curls past a gift shop (with a sign that says Open, although it doesn’t look like it’s been open in years) and up to the cemetery on a hill.

A female dog who’d just had pups was guarding the cemetery. Except for her, no one else was within sight. She sniffed us and let us scratch her for a minute (her skin was very bumpy and her fur very coarse), then she showed us around the graves and led us up to the church at the far end. In addition to the mass grave from the massacre, there are other more recent tombstones (and wooden cross markers) on the hill.

The place doesn’t look as though it receives many visitors, and aside from a few flowers placed on some of the graves (one of them a young man who died in the early 1900s), everything appears neglected and forgotten.

Before leaving, Danielle insisted we give the dog some water. So we put out a bowl for her and gave her a hot dog. She swallowed it without chewing.

We camped in the badlands that night, in the first free campground I’ve stayed at. The campground was full of grasshoppers and prairie dogs and not many other people stayed there.

Danielle got very sick, either from bad food (bison jerky), a lot of heat and sun, or both. She vomited on several prairie dogs and had a rough night in the Badlands.

We took a hike through the Notch trail, and despite taking a wrong turn and climbing halfway up a semi-treacherous slope, we finished in less than the time it was supposed to take. The hills there are made of something that feels as though it’s halfway between sand and rock.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Don't Have To Talk At All.

From Montana I drove to Yellowstone, the part in Wyoming. My campground was horribly overcrowded, but I didn’t spend much time there on the first night. I arrived kind of late and spent more time wandering around the park than I did sitting near my tent. I saw some deer, some bighorn sheep, a moose, some bison, and a bunch of weird small animals.

In the middle of the first night, after I’d fallen asleep, the group in the site closest to mine got back home after a day of fishing. They were a father and two sons and a few friends. They were all drunk (even though I’m pretty sure some of them were only 14 or 15), and the father was one of these guys who has to tell everyone exactly how to do everything. So for about an hour, I listened to him telling these kids how to set up their stuff and pack away their fish and brush their teeth, etc.

At one point a wolf howled and silenced them (and everyone else in the park) for about three seconds. It was a nice three seconds.

I eventually fell back asleep after listening to them arguing for 20 minutes about how to start a fire. When I woke up, they were gone, and I saw that they never did get the fire going.

That day I drove the hour and a half to Old Faithful. I got there just as one eruption was finishing up and decided to wait the hour and 45 minutes for the next one.

It was lunch time so I walked over to the gift shop/cafeteria to get some food, but there were like 600 families in line, each with 15 or 16 screaming 4-year old children.

I grabbed a can of refried beans from the back of my van and ate it with a sleeve of saltines in the parking lot (I’ve run out of quick snack foods to eat).

After eating I went into the store and asked the dude working there if there were any WiFi spots in the park. Before I finished asking he said, all rude-like, “no.” Then he said, all contemptuous-like, something about how people come to Yellowstone to escape that stuff.

As it turns out, there are wireless spots in both Yellowstone and the Tetons; you just have to sneak into one of the weird, huge hotels in the middle of the parks to access it.

I grabbed a spot in front of Old Faithful about twenty minutes before it was scheduled to erupt again. It was very hot and the children in the family next to me were complaining endlessly. Every time Old Faithful steamed or shot out a little bit of water (which it often does) the children would scream that it was over and they wanted to go. Their father joked, 13 or 28 times, that Old Faithful was nothing more than a man waiting underground with a fire hose. His 76 children thought this was a riot and it was the only thing that got them through the ordeal that is Old Faithful. Every time they started to complain he would tell this fire hose joke and they would roll in a great sweaty pile, laughing hysterically and repeating the joke over and over until they remembered they were very hot and bored.

The eruption was twenty-five or so minutes late. At the ten-minute-late mark the joke switched from firehoses to, “Old Faithful isn’t very faithful is it?” The children laughed even harder at this one, perhaps because it was only told 11 or 12 times and never got stale.

The family got fed up and left about two minutes before Old Faithful erupted.

When I got back to my campsite a new family had taken the vacant spot left by the fishermen. This family was from Utah and they had only one child, a kid named Marky.

I sat near my tent and opened up The Naked and the Dead, a book I’ve been reading since before my onslaught of visitors.

I didn’t get very far. Although Marky was a child of few words and sounds, his parents felt the need to be constantly talking at him.

Get off the coolers, Marky.


Mommy doesn’t like it when you say no to her, Marky.


If you say no to your mother one more time you’re getting a time out.



Stop hanging on that tree, Marky.


If you say no to her one more time . . .


Stop kicking the SUV, Marky.


Stop touching the grill, Marky.


Get off the coolers, Marky . . . You can’t climb on that cooler either, Marky . . . No, not that one either.


No, Marky.


Get out of that tent, Marky. We like to be able to see you.


Do you want to take a nap, Marky?

(comes running out of tent) No!

No rocks on your plate, Marky. Don’t touch that.

You have to get down, Marky . . . Get down, Marky . . . Marky! Get down now! Do you want a time out?


Did you check Marky’s diaper, honey?

You check Marky’s diaper, dear.

I did it last.

Do it again! He won’t stand still long enough for me to check it.

This went on for about an hour, until it was dark out. After getting into his pajamas Marky came out of the tent and asked his father why the fire wasn’t burning yet. His father told him the fire pit wasn’t a very good one (though it was the same exact fire pit that’s in every single park ever). Disgusted, Marky through a stick into the fire pit (it barely missed his dad’s head, unfortunately) and went back into the tent.

Getting him to go to bed was another ordeal, but I won’t list all of that. By midnight the kid complied and went to bed despite being angry about the lack of a campfire.

The father’s snoring and gassiness (and like three car alarms) kept me up for a good part of the night. The snoring wasn’t that loud, but our tents were that close.

The next day, while packing up my own site, they piled into their truck to go exploring for the day. Although the exit was clearly marked, it took the father three loops around the campground to get out.

I will never camp in the Disneyworld of wilderness that is Yellowstone again.

My campground in Grand Teton was awesome. A friend from my writing group suggested it. I had to get up at five on Sunday to get a spot, but it was worth it. The only bad thing about it was that the other campers were all way awesomer than me. They had incredible equipment and clothing and could set wood on fire just by looking at it. There were even sites reserved for people on bicycles. The people in that part of the campground had biked hundreds and thousands of miles to be there.

I’m picking up my friend Danielle in Denver tomorrow, and my next reading is in Bismarck on August 5th.

Self-Publishing Stuff #5—Writing!

Lots of people ask about my writing habits at my readings, so I will talk about them here for those of you who are interested. Many people also ask what my parents do and what economic class I am. I’m not sure why they ask this, but I will answer that first.

My mother is a nurse at the VA and my dad is an English professor at a community college. I think this makes me middle class.

When writing, I write a thousand words a day. While writing DMR I generally wrote more than this without trying to. The first draft of the book was 176,000 words (close to 700 pages double spaced Times New Roman). The final book is about 73,000 words I think. I do sometimes skip days, but I keep track of these and make up for them later. I try to write in the morning, and whenever possible, I get up to make sure it’s the first thing I do in the day.

I started off by saying “when writing” because I’m not always writing. After finishing DMR I took a couple months off. I didn’t write at all, I just read.

This summer I have been keeping up with the thousand words a day thing for the most part. And yes, I do count the blog entries in this.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Joining The World Of Missing Persons

Liz’s luggage was returned to her four days after it was lost. It ended up in Alaska somehow.

The night after Liz left I drove as far as I could and found a cheap motel (I couldn’t bear making the transition directly from 5 star to tent.

This motel (where I had to wake up the proprietor to get a room) had beds that vibrate for a quarter. I didn’t try it out because I didn’t want to shake up all the bed bugs and other grime caked into the unwashed sheets and tired mattress, but I’m glad I finally saw a vibrating bed—I was beginning to think they didn’t really exist outside of those motels with hourly rates, the kind with beds you can get pregnant from sleeping in.

The next day I drove through the upper, rectangular part of Idaho and stopped in Wallace, the silver mining capital of the world. Aside from the neon beer lights in the windows of the saloons, the main drag through town looks as though it hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years.

I went into one of the bars and got a barbecue brisket sandwich made in the barbecue on wheels out in the street.. As I was finishing up, an older couple wandered in and began chatting up the middle-aged bartender. The couple ordered beers and continued asking the bartender about the town and her own family. The bartender started talking about her husband the miner. The old woman was kind of shocked to hear that her husband was a minor, but she tried to hide her disapproval, kinda. This went on for two or three minutes before they realized they were having two different conversations.

“Oh, I thought you were saying minOR,” the old woman yelled while laughing.

After finishing my meal I drove through Montana. I passed through Missoula and over the Blackfoot River. It’s an incredibly beautiful state and the landscape varies quite a bit as you drive through—from glacier, to mountain, to grassy plain, to lake, to crops. That night I stopped at a random state park just before dark. I pulled into a camping site and was about to set up my tent when I noticed the top of a tipi sticking out over the tree tops. I wandered over to investigate and found there was a tipi available for nightly rental. It was ten bucks more than the tent sites, but I figured I’d never get the chance to sleep in a tipi again, so I rented it and threw all my stuff inside. The tipis in Montana parks are big enough for a dozen people, so I spread out all my stuff in an attempt to make the thing feel less eerily cavernous.

Despite the hole in the top, the teepee wasn’t buggy. It rained a little, but I was close enough to the edge that the water didn’t bother me or my spread out stuff.

The next day was my Helena reading. I searched the state park I was in and found there were no showers, so I drove to Helena and decided to get a room at a Motel 6 that night. I still had some internet catching up to do (from all the time I spent with visitors in the last three weeks) and I had to take a shower before the reading—I was covered in bug spray and driving grime and my hair was sticking straight out in all possible directions.

For a few hours before the reading I caught up on e-mails (almost), did some writing and facebooking and scrabulousing, and took a shower. After dressing, I had a lunch of sardines and crackers (since I feel weird cooking on my propane stove outside of motels). Eating the sardines after the shower was a very bad idea, especially with the beard. I could smell them for the rest of the night, and the fact that I could smell them is a very bad thing. I felt like one of The Twits.

At the library I introduced myself to the librarian who’d arranged the reading. She shook my hand and stared at me for a few seconds before finally saying, “Nice beard.”

The reading went very well. All the audience members were there because they were interested in DMR or the trip. Sometimes my audiences are primarily made up of potential self-publishers—this is great, but self-publishers often don’t buy each other’s books (which is of course very stupid).

Everyone had good questions and suggestions as to what I should do while in Montana.

After the reading the librarian and her roommate took me out for dinner at a small bar across the street. I tried a Blackfoot River beer and got an Indian taco. They told me bits and pieces of Helena history, mostly about the gold mining. There are still millions and millions of dollars worth of gold under the capital city, but no one can get to it now that the city has been built.

They said some things about Montana being a good place to hide, about lots of people ending up there because they were running and hiding from something in their lives or past. The Unabomber and a number of other famous criminals were mentioned. I didn’t think much about it then, but while driving through Montana the next day, I found myself imagining scenarios in which I’d have to run to Montana to hide from my life—not the most unsavory proposition in the world.

I asked about the small casinos on every Helena corner and the slot machines in every Helena bar. Apparently the taxes from these places pay teachers’ pensions. I investigated two of the casinos next to rest stops on the highway. They were both very depressing and only about the size of a large dining room. Most of the gamblers were retired people. Seeing a casino every hundred feet was very odd to me. We don’t have any in Massachusetts, and the ones in neighboring states are huge resorts.

They asked me about my trip and I described some of the more interesting moments. I also told them of my masseuse dilemmas. Their solution for the bumble bee breath girl was to think of grandmothers playing baseball naked. I will definitely try this next time I get a full-body massage in Portland, OR.

After dinner they offered to let me sleep at their place. I told them I couldn’t because I’d already gotten a room and my notes and clothes were spread all over the place.

They offered to plant cockroaches in my room so I wouldn’t have to pay for it, but again I said no.

Just before we parted in the library parking lot they asked one more time if I’d like to stay with them—there was a misunderstanding about suggesting I sleep with the dogs, which transitioned into a misunderstanding about suggesting I sleep with them, which transitioned into a misunderstanding about all of us (dogs included) sleeping in a big bed together. I was very confused, but again said no.

In retrospect, I wish I’d cleaned up my stuff at the Motel 6, planted bugs in strategic locations, and hung out with them that night.

The next morning they took me out for breakfast at a place where you’re kicked out for talking on a cell phone. The place sometimes kicks you out just for not putting your phone on silent.

It was a great breakfast and they did their best to explain the misunderstanding about suggesting I sleep with the dogs. At the very least, they said, it would be a good addition to my blog. I appreciate people who don’t mind being embarrassed in the blog.

I told them about the rest of my trip and that I’d be staying in Yellowstone next. They asked if I had bear spray and I was so excited to finally have a legitimate reason for carrying that nasty stuff everywhere I go.

When I got to the North entrance of Yellowstone, the one with the Roosevelt arch, the woman at the gate told me I was an hour and a half away from my camp site. Apparently it’s a very large park. While driving to where I’d be sleeping, some bison crossed the road right in front of me. I got out and took a few pictures while waiting for them. They can run 30 miles per hour, but they walk very slowly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All The Girls Standing In The Line For The Bathroom/Someone Left The Cake Out In The Rain Part Two

Just a couple quick updates:

Liz's luggage was lost.

I have a reading in Helena on Thursday.

In case you didn't notice or recognize it, that's the Fresh Prince's house in front of the Odyssey.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All The Girls Standing In The Line For The Bathroom/Someone Left The Cake Out In the Rain

I met my friend Liz at LAX. After having a quick lunch we drove to our extremely posh hotel. At the hotel we ate fancy foods and got massages. There were a few instances when my male masseuse touched me inappropriately (after telling me that first time clients were his favorite), but it seemed like a pretty good massage.

And just in case you haven’t been following this blog from day one, in the first blog entry I mentioned my mechanic who checked out the Odyssey. That mechanic is Liz’s husband. I was in their wedding a few months back (this information will come in handy in a few).

It was decided months ago, when Liz first planned her trip to visit me, that this portion of my trip would be the most luxurious. We booked only four star and up hotels, and although I was nervous about them we planned a number of spa treatments.

Our first night in LA we went to and had a remarkably good dinner. I’d never eaten in a restaurant even close to that expensive.

The next day I got some electroshock therapy thing at the spa that is supposedly equal to 300 workouts. I wish they’d included the fact that people must wear disposable underpants in the description of the treatment. The underpants didn’t cover very much.

The woman who gave me this treatment was very beautiful in an LA way. She wore way too much makeup, I’m pretty sure she’d had breast implants, and she worried out loud about the troublesome fatty zones on her body although there really wasn’t much fat on her.

She started me out at a very low level of electric shock and asked if I wanted to go higher. I told her I did not, that the electricity was already kind of uncomfortable. She kind of scoffed at this, telling me that most of her female patients went higher, but my arms felt like they were going to explode from the very forceful involuntary contractions.

She asked me to explain why the tan/burn on my shoulders was so weird. I told her that it was a suntan lotion mishap (thank you Gina).

I asked her where she was from and she said LA. She asked me a little about myself. I told her I was from Boston and that I was on a road trip. I also mentioned that I wasn’t accustomed to the spa lifestyle.

She told me she’d never been to Boston, but that she had been to New York City on business the week before. She complained that it was too congested. I thought this was very odd. I can understand a person from the Midwest complaining that New York is too congested, but for a person from LA to suggest it is kind of ridiculous. I do think that New York is more congested than LA, but not to the point where a person from LA would be uncomfortable. But then she went on to tell me how terrified of terrorist attacks she was while in New York. She talked about how the subway system is a great terrorist target and how claustrophobic she’d felt down there, and suddenly I understood why a person from LA would describe New York as congested.

I wanted to tell her she was being silly, but I didn’t.

The next day Liz and I drove to San Francisco. A few hours into the trip, in the desert, the air conditioning in the van broke (sorry Danielle and Greg). We pulled into a gas station in Huron, California. There they told us we had a major Freon leak (which I already knew from the white mist that intermittently comes out of my vents). I asked if there was anything they could do about it and they asked me to give them a minute.

While wandering around the garage, the owner gave Liz and I cups of iced tea. We also heard what sounded like a squeeking rat. I asked Liz what she thought it was and she said, rather flatly and assuredly, a rat.

We wandered into the bay where the squeeking was coming from and found a man feeding nuts or bread or something into a box. He was laughing and yelling something in Spanish to all the other Mexican dudes working in the place. I asked Liz what they were saying (since she’s fluent in both Spanish and German), but she didn’t answer.

Liz guessed it was 105 degrees, but I told her it was only 90 or so. Then a man from the garage told us it was 107 degrees.

A few minutes after that, they told me my AC compressor was busted. When I informed them that I’d had it replaced about three months ago (Liz’s husband did this), they looked quite perplexed.

I grabbed the keys and left. We bought a bag of ice and Liz rested it on her chest and stomach as we drove. We both made sure to drink lots of water.

While driving I asked Liz about the rat. She was cooler and told me what the Mexicans had been saying.

While repairing a car, one of them had heard a weird sound. When he opened the trunk he saw a rat. The men working there weren’t sure if it was a pet or just a rat that’d wandered into the trunk, so they kept it in a box and were feeding it until the owner of the car returned.

We drove to San Francisco from LA with no air conditioning for the majority of the trip. I don’t mind the heat, but I felt very bad about this because Liz had gone to the trouble of planning a pretty fancy four nights—but she handled it like a trooper.

When we got to San Francisco we had to go straight to dinner to meet some friends for a reservation. We’d been planning on showering and changing first, but the ac fiasco caused us to arrive so late that we had were forced to go straight to dinner.

We met my friend Ronak and her boyfriend Uchenna at Ruth’s Chris (the only chain we’re eating at I think). Ronak and I grew up one town apart but didn’t meet each other until we were nearly done with college. She’s an incredibly nice and interesting person and meeting up with people like her and random family I barely remember and friends of friends has been one of the high points of this entire trip.

When we got to the hotel we were told we’d been given a crazy upgrade. Liz and I were both excited about this and saw it as redemption for a very tough and hot day. When we got upstairs we were dazzled by the room. There was a fourteen seat conference table, a nice bathroom, a kitchen, and a huge tv. But after a little investigating, we realized there were no beds. (Thank you, William Shatner.)

When we called downstairs to ask about the beds, the woman was shocked that we’d been put in a room reserved for conferences. And after about 75 minutes wait and four phone calls we discovered there were no more foldaway beds left. There was some sort of big conference in town and they’d taken all the beds.

One of the Spanish speaking dudes working for housekeeping found Liz a renegade foldaway bed that staff usually used (it was really old and weird looking), and I slept on the floor.

The room was free and we were given a coupon for a free night at any Westin in the country, so everything kinda worked out.
The next day, after a shitty night sleep (our room stuff wasn’t worked out until 1 a.m.), we embarked on our air-condition-free 11 hour journey to Portland. I drove the entire way, and I think this is the second longest distance I’ve driven in one day—but this day was much easier because I had a friend to talk to. The other time I drove this far I slipped into a dream and my van drove itself off the road and into the desert. I’m very lucky this happened in Texas and not somewhere in a more populated region. The only thing I hit was a low bush, and there wasn’t a person around to see me do it (that was the first thing I checked for). I can’t remember what the dream was about.

The hotel in Portland wasn’t as nice as we’d thought it would be (though still much nicer than the motel 6s I’ve been staying in during thunder storms). But we weren’t staying Portland for the hotel, we were staying there for the spa.

After sleeping kinda late (due to the long drive) we went to the spa. Liz was scheduled for a facial and I had a massage. I requested a girl this time.

Liz’s appointment was a few minutes after mine, so I went into the waiting area without her and met the girl who was going to give me my massage. She was probably the cutest girl I’ve ever seen, and I think about my age. She was around 5’6” with dark hair and lots of freckles, and she was incredibly nice (although it was a non-gratuity spa).

She gave me a foot bath before the massage. I apologized for my gross feet (and they are really gross at this point), but she didn’t seem too worried. I explained that I’d been camping for a couple months, and for every detail of my trip that I told her, she responded with an enigmatic smile and the words, “right on.” It’s possible that she was stoned. Liz thought every single person we met in Portland was stoned (including an older woman we met at a gas station who clamed she waits at the gas station for authors from all over the world to show up).

For the massage she told me to place a very small towel over my butt while she stepped outside. I did this, but the towel did not cover as much of my rear as I would’ve liked.

This massage was very different from the first one I got. Although her hands didn’t’ graze my privates, it was a pretty sexual experience. The massage was good, much better than the first guy, but I think if I ever get a massage in the future I’ll ask for a dude.

She massaged my butt, which was kind of shocking to me. She also massaged my beard, which I thought was kind of hilariously awesome. But at one point her lips were less than a centimeter away from mine and she was breathing right into my nose.

Don’t get me wrong—it was awesome, and her breath smelled like bumble bees, but the whole situation made me kind of nervous and uncomfortable.

From there Liz and I drove to Seattle. Our hotel room was nice and we ate at the top of the Space Needle. The view is beautiful, but the spinning is a tad nauseating.

After all my worrying about it, Liz didn’t even mind my beard. In fact, she didn’t even mind when I had a chicken wing caught in it for two days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Be Sure You Try To Climb Before You Get Too Scared

Gina and I went to Hollywood on her last full day here. I took pictures of the stars of Patrick Stewart (for a friend), Pee-Wee Herman (for my sister), and Edison (because he has some Brockton connections). We saw the Chinese theater and visited that cemetery with all the famous dead people.

That night we went to the Griffith Observatory. It’s named after a man named Griffith J. Griffith who may or may not have shot his wife in the face (we overheard someone who works on General Hospital telling his friend about this dark Hollywood secret). We stayed until dark, and from up there, it really is like looking down on the stars (I’m a flibbertygibbit).

In the last ten days or so I’ve done a lot of touristy things. It’s fun to see landmarks like the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam and all the famous spots in the LA area, but I’ve met more foreigners than Americans at these places. At the Grand Canyon, three groups of French people were camping within 20 feet of me and Allie. And on our trip to San Francisco, Gina and I sat near more Germans than Americans. On the ride home (and I left this out of my last blog entry because it was still too fresh) I actually woke up in the middle of the night, yelled something about the bus going too fast, and grabbed and squeezed the head of the dude, a German, sitting in front of me. I don’t remember any of this since I was still half asleep, but Gina gleefully filled me in when we arrived back in LA. Luckily he wasn’t a violent German; he was more of a terrified German.

Before she left, Gina complimented my bad driving. Apparently she thought it was an intentional marketing tactic (since I have One Tiny Pizza Publishing’s web site printed on the back of my van). But if bad driving was a good marketing tactic, then I’d be a millionaire by now.

She also left me with the following advice:

Trust no man, though he may be your brother

Whose hair is one color, and beard is another.

I’ve been getting a lot of flak about my beard lately. I’m picking up my friend Liz at the LAX airport tomorrow. She called earlier tonight to tell me my beard better be shaved by the time she gets here. She also scheduled some spa treatments for me in the four star hotels we’re staying in (that I will never be able to pay her back for). I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these treatments is a facial wax or something—if they even do that.

It’s going to be tough to go back to camping and sleeping in the van after all this hoteling and moteling.

Self-Publishing Stuff #4—Map Day!

About seven months ago, my friend Dennis helped me plan the route for this trip. He’s driven cross-country a few times, spent years as a professional bus driver, is the most incredible parker I know, and seems to have an innate sense of direction.

We set aside a Saturday (I took off the day from Walnut Hill security guarding), gathered all the atlases, maps, and star wars monopoly figures we had, and prepared to plan a 62-stop, 16,000-mile trip (it’s actually going to be about 20,000 miles).

We spread my huge US map across his dining room table and placed game pieces (we had to use Trouble pieces and a couple other game pieces in addition to the Star Wars Monopoly pieces) on all of the 62 cities I planned to visit.

One of Dennis’s roommates noticed what we were doing and decided to join in. He’d been to many more parts of the country than me (a common trend in my life up until a few weeks ago) and had lots of suggestions regarding places to stop, things to see, and routes to take.

A straight-from-Italy Italian friend of Dennis’s roommate showed up a little later on in the day. The two of them were supposed to go see Rocky Balboa (I think), but they got so caught up in planning the trip that they skipped the movie.

Seven months before this thing even began, people were telling me they wanted to tag along or that they wished they could do something similar. And just about every day someone tells me they wish they could abandon their lives (at least for a little while) and join me.

I’m glad that all my friends have jobs and school, because I can’t think of a single one I’d want to spend 14 weeks with in a van. But I’m also glad so many of them are willing to spend money and time to join me for a short portion of the trip.

This isn’t one of those self-publishing tidbits that prospective self-publishers can really use, but I decided to include it because Map Day is one of those days that has really made this whole process worthwhile. I enjoy hanging out with friends more when we get something done or when we go on a small mission (like Institution Day), and these days are part of the reason I like doing this stuff on my own—and of course, I use the phrase on my own very loosely.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good

My friend Gina (a rampant Cure fan who wore lipstick around her eyes until c. 2002) arrived at LAX about two hours after Allie left. She brought only one small bag of stuff for her entire six-day visit.

The first day we wandered around LA and went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I worried when I read their first plaque about antediluvian man (and thought maybe I’d wandered back into the bible belt), but my worries were unfounded and it was actually a very cool place. I think I enjoyed it more than Gina, though she was the one who suggested we go there.

We ate at a Mexican outdoor restaurant (like Corpus Christi Texas, the vast majority of restaurants near our motel in Inglewood are Mexican). Gina’s vegetarian enchiladas came packed with beef, so she went hungry because she wouldn’t let me bring the error to the attention of the woman who’d taken our order. My burrito tasted like dog food, but I finished it. We’re not going back to that restaurant.

The next day we drove down to San Diego to visit the zoo. It’s a pretty incredible place. We didn’t wait in line for the celebrity panda, but we snuck up to a fence and watched him (or her) do nothing through the cracks in the wood.

The next day we went to a party at my friend Derek’s house. I hadn’t seen him in years, and I haven’t really spoken to him since high school. We were in the same program for smart kids in fifth and sixth grade and it was there that we created the comic Spanky and Slim Jim. I think I mostly just peed my pants laughing while Derek wrote and drew all the stories—tales such as: Spanky and Slim Jim and the Great Glass Eye, Spanky and Slim Jim and the Pulsating Pelvis, Spanky and Slim Jim and Beaver Giardia, and Spanky and Slim Jim and E. Coli the Little Guy (this one was my favorite). The whole series was a complete rip-off of Ren and Stimpy, but we had a good time making them. And with the help the television studio at Massasoit Community College, we made a movie in Jr. High called How To Become a Super Spy in Three Easy Steps. It was a great success and featured some very innovative camera work. The funniest part about watching it these days is the fact that Derek’s voice had changed but mine hadn’t. If you close your eyes and watch the movie it sounds like a young man with a chipmunk sidekick. Derek is still mad that the studio wouldn't let him include the super-spy tip: being black is a plus.

In high school Derek got mono and I took over his role in the December drama production, You Can’t Take It With You. Derek quit drama after that play and I got the majority of the funny roles from that point on. I was always very thankful that Derek got mono.

Derek currently does some graphic design stuff, but he was working in the movies, doing makeup until just before the writer’s strike. We talked about all our old friends while eating some undercooked, E. Coli ridden chicken wings.

That night, Gina and I boarded a midnight bus for San Francisco (we wanted to find Danny Tanner’s house because he was a second daddy to both of us). The bus was surprisingly full and I didn’t think we were going to get a seat together for the eight hour bus ride, but then a bearded man in shabby clothes who didn’t get the memo about the sixties being over offered to move and give us his seat. He grabbed his sticker-covered hurdy gurdy (at least we think that’s what it was) and sat down next to a biker dude across the aisle. Later on, in the middle of the night and ride, the bearded man started moaning loudly and the biker dude had to get up to find a new seat.

We arrived in San Francisco at 6:30 in the morning and nothing was open, so we walked toward a big bridge. Although it was grey and not red I began taking pictures. Gina stopped me and said it wasn’t the Golden Gate, but I insisted that it must be and they were probably in the middle of repainting it. I asked a trash man picking up bags in the park we were in and he told us the Golden Gate was actually miles away. We were looking at the Bay Bridge.

We took a trolley up the road a ways and walked to the Golden Gate. The day was overcast, but the bridge is still very cool to look at. I’ll be driving over it in a few days when I take the Odyssey up the West Coast.

We didn't find Danny Tanner's house, but I'm pretty sure I saw Comet running through the Golden Gate park.

Yesterday we went to Malibu and I jumped into the Pacific for the first time. I don’t deal with chilly water very well so I didn’t stay in long, but I’m glad I can say I’ve been submerged in it. When I got out of the water, I discovered a seagull had pooped on my fanny pack and I was pretty pissed off.

Last night we had dinner with my friend Ezra, a guy who’s been very good friends with my older sister since high school. He had a book published in the fall, Cinescopes (which was featured in Parade magazine and the Early Show), and worked in Hollywood for years before that. He’s out of Hollywood now, working with Autistic kids, and hoping to get a series of children’s books published. It was nice for me to pick his brain about publishing and promotion. Although I haven't tried it yet, I am interested in learning as much as I can about traditional publishing. He said to write lots of query letters. He and his co-author wrote over a hundred before they got a response from an agent.

Gina talked a little about her own efforts in 16 millimeter animation. Ezra seemed surprised when we told him about our network of hugely unsuccessful artists (our failed gallery). He had to go to Hollywood to find a network of creative people.

BTW, Gina and I watched Be Kind Rewind on a night when we were too tired to do any more sightseeing. It is now officially the best movie ever . . . except for Ghostbusters.