Thursday, July 26, 2007

International Road Trip: Entry 1

Day 1 - Underway

I woke at about 8 to finish packing my livelihood into one piece of luggage and a backpack. Not too hard to do I guess: 15 pairs of underwear, 12 T-shirts, 5 dress shirts, 10 pair of socks, 4 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of black work pants.

After getting that squared away I had to pack the remainder of my belongings into a few boxes that could be stored in someone’s garage without taking too much space. I finished that around 12 noon. Then met up with Burton, a guy I know through Los Hermanos who got the same gig . It was to be me, Burt and Glade driving to Alaska in a two-door Saturn. We ran around taking care of last-minute things. Then went to pack Glade's stuff. Glade had consolidated his things down into a few pieces of luggage and a backpack, but we didn’t have room for some of his camping gear, so he packed in what he could into his suitcase. We got it all in and started to head out of town. At which point I realized I had left my birth certificate, driver's license and social security card in the Xerox machine at the library (dumb dumb dumb.) I went in and it wasn’t there… checked with the front desk… not there. She sent me to the back desk and... they had it there! The librarian gave me a look like "you lucky dumb ass!"

So we headed out of town, stopping to fuel up at Costco. I ran in to try and buy an SD card for my digital camera but it was like $40 for a 2 gig (and I already had one in the mail from Hong Kong) so I figured I’d make do with the camera's internal memory until I could find a cheaper one (Wal-Mart has 1 gigers for like 14 bucks).

Headed to Idaho. Stopped in some Idaho town to fill up again. It had one gas station/grocery store. Not that weird to me since I grew up in Podunk, Oklahoma. But it was funny that the music playing in the store sounded like the score for Nappy D. We got to Boise around 10 and stayed with Burt's uncle Warren (not Jeffs). He had made us some nice minestrone soup. Unfortunately, I'm allergic to beans, and it had beans in it. But I had some cereal and corn bread with honey. We slept like... dogs (at least I did, I got the floor).

International Road Trip: Entry 2

Next day we headed out around 12 after visiting Burton's grandma. She sent us on our way with some fruit and graham crackers . We had a pretty uneventful trip until we reached about the middle of Oregon. Burton was driving. I spotted a cop in the median between the highway lanes and said “Burt, po-po.” He didn’t realize what I had said 'til we were right on top of the cop. Burton slowed down (he had only been doing 5 over anyway), and we passed the cop doing the limit. I think its important to note that we were all in good spirits at this point and probably all had smiles on our faces, which I think is the only explanation for what happened next. The cop pulled out of the median. We had two semis between us and him and they were doing a good job of staying side by side, which kept him off our tails for a bit. Burt wasn’t sure if the cop had clocked us before he slowed down or not, and Glade said he needed to pee. So we decided to pull off at the next exit and try and lose him (and find a bathroom). We pulled off, and the cop pulled off behind us. And tailed us for a couple of miles (there were no gas stations or anything for Glade). After tailing us for an eternity, the cop finally turned on his lights. He asked us if we were aware that we had "something hanging off your bumper." Burt told him he had been rear ended recently and hadn’t gotten it fixed. I must say at this point I was relieved (unlike glade who really REALLY needed to relieve himself). But then, the cop asked us if we had been drinking, and if we had been taking any illegal substances. Burt giggled at this because its absurdity (to him) and said "uh…*giggle*. No…." The cop then asked him to take off his glasses and tip his head back. Burt complied. Then he told him to close his eyes.. Burt shut his eyes kinda tight, on account of the sun was being pretty bright and kinda bothering him. The cop told him not to squint, "just relax," so he did. His eye lids were fluttering (again, the sun was being absurdly bright.) He (the cop, not Burton) said that was indicative or marijuana use. He asked if we would be okay with him searching the car. We said (in unison) "Sure, go ahead!" Then he asked if we would be okay with a canine unit coming in to sniff our luggage. Sure. Go ahead. Glade asked if it was illegal to pee on the side of the road. Cop said it was (whatever). He took Burt’s ID and registration and went back to his car. When he came back he asked Burt to step out of the car and do a couple more tests. He told him to do the little close your eyes thing again, then had him stick his tongue out. He said that his green tongue was also indicative of smoking weed, asked him again if he had been using it. Burt explained that he had an Amp energy drink in the car if the officer wanted to look. The cop said “Be honest with me, have you EVER in your life used marijuana?” Burt replied “No, never in my entire life have I ever used marijuana” he asked if either Glade or I had ever used it. “Not to my knowledge.” He asked him again if he would be okay with having his car searched by a canine unit. When Burt again said “Go ahead,” the cop told him he was okay to leave, and told him where the next gas station was.

That was just plain, old-fashioned harassment. The guy is bored out of his mind, sees three guys having a good time and thinks “I could wait for someone to speed, but that’s probably not going to happen, it hasn’t yet at least… or I could go stop those guys … easy enough…. they have a broken bumper… and I’m sure there’s a couple of secondary offenses I can get them on… seat belts… registration… insurance. Yeah! Lets do that! (he said all of this to the little devil on his left shoulder).

Upon discovering that we are 100 percent legit motorists, he figures (in his head so we can’t hear him) “So you have all your ducks in a row, do you? Well let’s just see about that… I’ve seen happy campers in my day, and I’ve seen campers that are TOO happy. And there’s the slightest chance that you have enlisted the aid of a little helper, if you know what I mean… which, if you could hear my thoughts, you probably would.”

And then he sets about trying to find any little discrepancy in our mannerisms and behaviors that would give the slightest reason for suspicion. “Well” he says in his brain “ this driver guy is certainly giggly, and he probably doesn’t react well to bright light… I’ll have him stare at the sun!” He continues and then he gets a little more frustrated, “this guy has to have at least TRIED drugs at one point in his life…”

Anyway, you get the point. He thinks like a child who loves playing cops and robbers. He also reminds me of a beast I once knew that was the most tenacious of tentacled sea dwellers. He just wouldn’t let go. He met his end at the point of a harpoon… directly between the eyes. As I am sure that cop will.

International Road Trip: Entry 3

After the whole racist cop incident we got back underway. We were getting pretty far along, we had crossed into Washington and all was well except for Burt’s whiny punk music. I found some me time and decided to spend it sleeping. (kinda hard to do when you’re packed in like a prized specimen of the perfect race, with a lot of luggage instead of bubble wrap or packing popcorn (since that stuff is a choking hazard and all, and we’re talking a LIVING specimen) but I dozed off soon enough.

Not long enough though. It seems I had barely nestled in to a pile of money, women and cotton candy when I was awakened by what sounded like air escaping instantaneously from a circular rubber tube molded around small reinforcing wire and nylon mesh. And my instincts proved true. It was in fact air escaping and it was in fact a circular rubber air retaining device as I described… a tire. The front left one to be exact.

Burt pulled over (to the right side of the road, as is proper) and as luck would have it we were right by a rest stop. If good luck had been on the ball he would have let bad luck take over just a little earlier where we could have made it actually INTO the rest stop instead of on the other side of a long tall chain link fence… but whatever, he’s luck… he really didn’t owe us any favors and I‘d say he was at least considerate enough to take a break when he did.

The tire was ripped like this months Mr. Beefcake centerfold in Playgirl (that what the mechanic said at least, I’ll take his word for it.) So we figured airing it up again wasn’t enough… we needed something a little less ruined to replace it with. that’s when we decided that a spare tire would be the best plan, and so we got the one that was in the trunk. Glade did most of the work, I’ll admit. I was hesitant to touch the tire that would be likened to a nude man within a couple of hours. Although that must have been a subconscious reasoning for not touching it, as I didn’t yet know the mechanic had gotten this months issue.
We went to put on the small, not so showy or ripped replacement (which will probably never be featured in a women’s entertainment magazine) but alas, it was kinda…. flaccid. It needed to be aired up and we lacked the lung power to do it ourselves. that’s when we decided that we needed something or someone else to do it for us. We asked a couple of truckers if they could do it ( I thought they might since their trucks are equipped with air brakes and I thought there was a good chance that they had an adapter to use for tires. But no luck. I checked out from the group to use the stinker. And I feel it is necessary at this point to tell you that I was SICKLY! After… a while… I rejoined my compadres who were trying to get ahold of their insurance providers to see if they offered roadside assistance. But they didn’t. The other guys wanted to see about maybe hitchin’ a ride into town to get someone to tow us and I was like What?! Why not just get them to air up the tire. And then I realized that that’s what they were actually wanting to do. But I maintained that we still had a good chance of finding a trucker with a typical crude composure and a typical trucker T shirt... like with a woman wearing next to nothing and doing something totally unladylike… and above it usually some name like Harley Davidson (which sounds to me like a pretty white trash name… pretty fitting for an airbrushed whore who has no more decency than to sprawl out all over a motorcycle in a torn up T-shirt that would serve better to mop up a smoothie from the kitchen floor. Or maybe even some spring water or canola oil... Like tuna comes in, sometimes that makes quite a mess on the floor… at least in my experience.)

About this time Good Luck clocked in again and picked up where he left off. He didn’t miss a beat. He obliged on the whole trucker scenario (even down to the T shirt, but I didn’t notice it, Burton did.) He was on the phone with none other than “a pair of double D’s” so we had to wait a little while. But then he got right to it and used his brake lines to air the spare up to 60 PSI (as recommended by manufacturer).

We slapped it on and we were on our way! (when I say slapped I don‘t literally mean slapped, but more in a sort of a general way that just conveys that we did in fact act with some sort of verb or action that securely fastened the tire to the hub… I just said Slapped to save myself from describing the process.)

We made it to Cle Elum, a little biddy town with a service station that had a dog passed out on the floor in front of the counter. The lady on the other side of the counter referred us to a shell station that does tires. We mozy’d on down. He said he had a used tire for $40 or a new one for a hundred or more. We opted for the used one. And had him throw a tire rotation into the $10 labor fee. $50 bucks got us rolling again. We made it the rest of the way into Seattle with minimal hassle.

We made it into Seattle and with a little difficulty we found the place Burt had arranged for us to stay. Jason, burt's sisters friend - a really awesome guy - let us crash on his floor. I didn't sleep well on account of my sickness... so I was in and out of the bathroom all night. We watched a little of "The Deadliest Catch" on the Discovery channel and I slept alright... except for my nightmare about falling off of the fishing boat.

Today we got up... went out to see the city. We drove around by the coast, doing alot of up and down motion. i puked in a trash can. i felt better.

The space needle is pretty awesome. they have these new-fangled interactive kiosk things that let you look at a full 360 degree, minute by minute photo log of the last 24 hours from the top of the needle. also they had a camera that you could opperate with a joystick and pan around and zoom in on stuff. that was cool.

after that we decided to walk to REI and I bought a sleeping bag thats good for weather as low as -15 degrees. Hopefully it wont ever see that kind of cold... but its good to have just in case. I'll probably be really glad I got it when we camp in Canada for the next couple of nights.

we also went to check out the underground market in Pioneer Square, but I started feeling sick again on the way there. I was really cold ... like my bones were iced over... you know? and just achig left and right. I decided to sit down and let Glade and Burton shop some more. Finally we headed back home and i tried out my new sleeping bag for an hour or so.

Then Jason, Burt and I played Settlers of Catan. Its like a glorified Pit meets monopoly I guess. it was pretty fun. Jason kicked our asses.

Now its off to bed. I dunno when I'll be around again.. probably not till we get to Anchorage... we're still 2700 miles out.

More to come!


International Road Trip: Entry 4

I’d like to start this one off with a verse of scripture and a spiritual thought.

Okay forget the scripture and lets scratch the spiritual part of the thought, I would like to quote a line from my boys Nappy Roots.

So rough it was, downright wrong, I tell ya
Nobody never gave us nothin but tough time, and made us somethin
Different stretch of road, new somethin to see
Every state on the map, a different somethin to eat

After we crossed the Border we realized that we were somewhere south of hell when we saw that everything was in Kilometers and Liters, And CANADIAN dollars. There were also tons of Asians (that’s just a side note, it didn’t have anything to do with hell). At first we were kinda excited to see that gas was something like $1.26 and then we realized that that was per liter or cup or ounce or what have you. Anyway. I’m going to take a moment to expose a Canadian conspiracy….

See, over there, they take our mile (yours and mine) and HACK it into one and 6/10ths kilometers. “Why would they do this?” (That’s your line) Because they DWELL in confusion! Also they have conditioned the Canadian Commoner into feeling that it really means something. Like, for instance, a Canadian commoner might say something like this… *ahem* “oh say, der… were aboot to hit 100 KM/h! that’s really something, der!” but, in fact, it is not something. Because they are actually only going 60 American miles per hour (they left the hour alone, but I’m sure it will soon be corrupted by their skewed perception of reality.) Hence, by slowing down traffic through Canadia, they retain passers-through for longer forcing them to spend their valuable, uncanadian currency in Canada! It also keeps Canada going slower than the rest of the world, which explains why Canada is so far behind the times. Scientists predict that eventually Canada will collide with Russia, because its moving to slowly to keep up. Luckily Russia isn’t going much faster, which puts the estimated time of collision (EToC) some 20 years down the road. (that’s only 5 years away for the rest of us, though.)

I again visited the land of cotton candy, loose change and women for an hour or so. We started into some pretty green and snowy mountains. Burt’s exceptional driving kept us between the lines for the most part. We drove and drove. And then stopped in Lillooet, BC (which here and hereafter means British Columbia, or Canada) and camped. I was pretty much still in the depths of sickness, but the camp host gave us a key to the bathrooms (there and thereafter called “washrooms” or “Water closets”) So I survived the night.

Day 4 - More Mountainous Road. (And long stretches of not so mountainous but by no means desert-like road.)
Next morning was when I took over driving. We got all packed up and headed out, stopped off to pay the camp fee, 22 demented dollars (that’s kinda like funny money, except there’s not really anything funny in Canada.) I feel its necessary for me to give credit to my friend Burton at this point. He had been the sole driver thus far, which was well over 1000 miles of road. But I took over. So enough about him.

I drove for a while or two, about 8 hours worth. We stopped at a DQ somewhere near the start of the day and ate food. And drove on, And nothing happened. That is, until I got really sick and drove like a mad man to the wee town of Chetwynd, BC. I was in no condition to drive after that, (remember when you feel sorry for me that is day 3 of my horrible illness, with no end in sight.) I bought some Imodium AD ($7.36 #$@% dollars) and we continued. This time with Glade behind the wheel.

I don’t know if Glade has driven a stick before, but he only killed the car once. He dumped the clutch quite a bit along the way but I think that subsided after a while. He drove through the most mundane stretch of road ever witnessed by passers through such as ourselves.
He got anzie I guess and upped his speed to about 86 MPH or 138 CMU’s (herein and hereafter known as Canadian measuring units) What happened next has been classified as too bothersome to be depicted by mere words. And I’m sorry to say that in all the confusion I was unable to find time to snap a photo.

GLADE GOT TICKETED! That damned mountie caught up with us somehow. And he held nothing back… well he kinda knocked the price of the ticket down some but still… let me just say here **** the R.C.M.P.
Glade was pretty bummed and said he was pretty much done with the whole car driving scene. Burt took over and drove us into a what would be the last vague indication of civilization that we would witness for a long time….

More later! Will a higher power Deliver our heroes from certain peril!? The climax is yet to come.

Until next time.

International Road Trip: Entry 5

We came to the town of Fort Nels-- wait, wait! let me back up… So, we were about 50 miles out of Fort Nelson when we realized that we were DANGEROUSLY low on gas. Our minds were rushing with anticipation ‘ Will we make it to Fort Nelson?! (we didn’t know.) “Will we die in this netherworld!?” (I’m not sure who asked this question, I was delirious in my illness and couldn’t muster the energy to find out. Looking back it seems kind of an absurd question… but far be it from me to pass judgment.) Will I never get the chance to deny my kids something they really want, as is traditional for parents to do?! ( I actually cried to think of this one, Burt will deny it but he was welling up, too.) We were thoroughly stricken with terror. Palms sweating, we watched anxiously as the fuel gauge dipped ever closer to the black void below the E (which represents the word Execrable.) I have to interject at this point, I simply can’t permit you to experience all the anxiety that we had to endure. Just so you know, we made it to Fort Nelson without so much as a sputter. So yeah, we got gas. Stopped at Boston Pizza. I had a lemon water (I was still deathly Ill, but the recent, taxing and stressful experience left me a bit parched… and due to my illness I was losing fluids…a lot.)

We hit the road and Burt took the wheel. He drove us pretty much into the heart of the unknown. He and glade woke me up to see the northern lights (erora boryalus). I didn’t really get a good look at them, the windows were pretty frosted over. They were pretty much gone after 5 minutes. I went back to bed and awoke to the most bone chilling sound in the world for 3 transnationalists to hear when miles from the nearest settlement!

Read on to hear what happens next! Was the sound crunching bones!? Was it death gurgles? Maybe the sound of a thousand angry canucks moving in for the kill… stay tuned to learn the truth!

Okay then, I wont keep you waiting. The sound was excruciating to the trained ear of a mechanic. The sound had nothing in fact to do with crunching bones. Or death gurgles. It may as well have been a thousand angry Canadians, but there were NONE around. It was a metallic scraping… it sounded kind of like if you were to take an internal combustion engine and deplete the lubrication system while it is operating. And that, my readers, is exactly what had happened the very internal combustion engine that was beneath the hood of the car we were driving. (Burt was driving. Hence, Burt is to blame.) He acted like it surprised him and said something totally transparent like “oh shucks! That doesn’t sound good.” but we all knew it was what he wanted. He pulled over and killed the car…. At this point we were NOT getting anywhere at all. I wouldn’t stand for it. But we really had no choice . Burt tried to ditch us and make off on his own.. But, again, I saw right through it and wouldn’t stand for it. He said he was going to “just walk to the last gas station… about 23 miles back.”

We made him stay put. I took the opportunity to relieve myself on the side of the road (and was ecstatic with the results). We put the hood up and turned on the flashers and tried to sleep. I woke up every time a car passed (don’t get me wrong, its not like there was a lot of traffic…) but most didn’t stop. A trucker stopped and offered to give one of us a ride to the next gas station in the opposite direction. But we courteously declined (I had nothing to do with it, Burt was doing the talking. Being in the back seat, it was just my job to wake him up when people stopped… that was no small chore.) After a while some people stopped and gave us a quart of oil.. We put it in (I had nothing to do with it, Burt did all the pouring…. Being in the back seat and all I couldn’t very well get out for such a small chore.) He hopped back in the car and went to start it but it wouldn’t turn over. Burt said it was bad news and I tried to be optimistic about it. I thought what with all the hours of flashers being on that there was the minutest of chances that it had drained the battery to low to turn the engine over. Burt put the hood back up. And eventually this kindly couple with a camper trailer stopped and tried to give us a jump, Didn’t work.

He offered to “tow-start” us. I guess that’s how lazy people push start a car. He stung a tow rope from their camper to our car and I put it in second gear… turned the key to run and what not and he started pulling.

After about 30 feet the wheels locked up and he was literally dragging the car. (I knew this was bad news, read on to see what happens.) Since that wasn’t working out he offered to tow us into the next town (which turned out to only be about 10 miles away… Watson Lake, BC. look it up.) So, Glade hopped in the cab with the kindly smoker couple and their dog. And me and Burt jumped in the car and the towing began. After about 2 miles the tow strap broke. We moseyed over to the shoulder but the smoker couple kept driving without so much as a hint of noticing their lost cargo. I started gathering my stuff together out of the car and what not. Burt went and pee’d on the other side of the road. I Yodeled some. That was fun. ( A word of caution: Be sure to note your surroundings when preparing to yodel. If there is any chance that your yodeling may cause an avalanche, or a severe beating, refrain from yodeling.) We waited for a while and it didn’t seem like our would-be rescuers were going to come back. I noted that there was the slightest chance that they had eaten our comrade, Glade. Or were, even as we discussed it, torturing him as strangers often do to innocent, unfortunate travelers. WE figured that this was more than a slight chance after all. Burt said he was glad I was on the road trip because of my high spirits when the going got rough (at this point it is safe to say that the going had gotten rough)
Burt was pretty much placid as well. I guess we both fail to see the point of dwelling on the negative and letting it affect your mentality. It’s so much better to try and stay positive, or at least to find some distraction from the negative when there’s nothing to be done about it. That’s exactly what the case was here… nothing to do but to wait for our would-be good Samaritans to discover they lost their payload and then hope they came back. But in the mean time, why not laugh at the absurdity of how long it was taking them? And so we did just that.

Eventually they came back. Glade and the Samaritan’s wife asked us “how far did we make it before the tow rope broke?” to which there was no real reply, since we were no more than 10 yards from the breaking point. Burt answered “oh, about from where we started to about…. Right here.” Now I appreciated the humor behind this little joke, but some did not. And I can understand that, but there was a point to the answer… the point was something like “We only know what happened from there to here. And we have no better means of estimating that than you have.” but the question was repeated and the answer didn’t change much.
Like I said, I can see where this rubbed Glade the wrong way, and maybe we should have fought the urge to be smartasses about it and ventured a guesstimation, because sometimes people will persist until they get the answer they want even if its irrelevant, but I didn’t feel it merited the energy since the point was moot.

After 2 more broken ties and retries we made it all the way into town. The last break happened right as we were pulling into the diner/car shop so me and Burton hopped out and pushed it the rest of the way. The goodly people went on their way, Glade sent them off with an expression of our gratitude and a good “God bless!” and we went into the diner to wait for the mechanic. He showed up after about 10 minutes and we went out for the official diagnosis. And it goes like this. “She’s seized. She’s done. She’s Finished. And she’s got nothing left in her” he popped the hood and pointed to the engine block.. Or rather a hole therein “that’s your engine, der. And she’s busted up.” one of the connecting rods had gone right through the cylinder wall and that pretty much all there is to it. And like the mechanic said, she’s finished.

Pretty much I had made this assumption when we tried “tow starting” the car. And that’s why I started gathering my stuff together when we were temporarily abandoned. I had made up my mind (and you would have, too.) to hitch-hike out of there. It was really the only option we had. We discussed it a little in low voices (there was no one around ((maybe a ninja or something, but no one that I could see.)) but it just felt like a good time to talk in low voices.) We voted to leave the Piece of crap where it sat, eat some breakfast and make a final decision. We went into the diner and had a bite. I got the omelet. Burt had to tell the guy that we would be back for the car at the end of the summer. We figured he wasn’t to keen on the idea of us using his parking lot for a junkyard, and wouldn’t let us go until it was taken care of unless we told him we’d be back for it. We did just that, (the telling him we’d be back, not the actually being back… which I don’t think will happen.) we gave him the spare key to it and got his business card.

We went out and started consolidating our stuff into a reasonable load (none of it ended up being reasonable, but we couldn’t very well leave it behind) I didn’t end up having to shed anything, I had packed really light from the start and had some room to spare in my luggage so I took on some of the community wares… a tarp, a map, some DVD-R’s and other various items. Glade had to shuck his bedding (he hung onto his sleeping bag, but left his pillow and blanket). He also left a little camera bag sized piece of luggage with unnecessary clothes and what not. Burt had to leave the most stuff, if you figure in the car. But he left A LOT of CD’s and stuff behind.

We started off down the road. We got about 30 yards out and I stopped for a rest. Soon enough Joanne and her dog came by and asked “what are you guys DOING!?” to which we replied the obvious, “Hitchhiking… to Alaska.” Burt feels that I should add here that he always depends on the kindness of strangers, and he was not left wanting. She told us to throw our stuff in the truck and pile into the cab. She asked us what our game plan was “umm find a ride to Alaska” “well ask me questions! Maybe I can answer them” I don’t think we really knew any good questions pertaining to the trip so we ended up talking about her and her dog (here remaining unnamed, it didn‘t speak (yet another disappointment Canada had to offer)). She took us down to the last petrol station in town, Tags Fuel Station. I promptly went in and asked for a piece of paper.
I wrote Alaska on it and held it up to help people understand our hopeless situation....

International Road Trip: Entry 6

We stopped right under the green sign that says how far to the next town. We figured our best bet for getting picked up was a good-hearted trucker, or else someone who could empathize with 3 regular guys down on their luck… who had a vehicle with enough room for 3 guys down one their luck, AND ALL THEIR LUGGAGE. We thumbed 5 RV’s, a ford escort, and about 8 big rigs… Nothing.

Of course, we know it won’t be easy for us… we have a loooong way to go. But it’s like ‘come on, not even a smile?’ Wait, there was that damned white ford escort that was seriously amused at the fact that we were thumbing to Alaska . We got a lot of laughs from them. There must not be much to do in Watson Lake, BC. Because it seems like we saw every car in town at least twice, some upwards of 4 or 5 (like that damned white ford escort that laughed at us each time they passed.) Glade was pretty much hating it, and I think it’s fair to say that it was Burt and me doing most of the thumbing. Burt and I had had a catalytic conversation during the time that the Kindly Smokers had lost us on the way into town, Basically I think we realized that we thought a lot of the same things were funny. And so commenced saying those things.

So here we are, Burt and me saying (what we thought to be) funny things. And Glade was really not buying it. But its whatever… He was there, and we were there and we had to try. So Glade Burt and I started Thumbing our little hearts out. Close your eyes, if you will, (but not really… continue reading) and envision the sight I’m about to describe. There we stood, in front of our luggage (so as to kinda hide the fact that we had TONS of CRAP from would-be picker-uppers)
And our collective nose as red as a rose.
And now, here, the subject of prose,
(at least, until there arose this rhyming so gross.
((Which is verse -- quite perverse, and maybe worse)).

And now, picture if you will, a great white vessel, black windows, the faintest hint of blue on the edges.. This large and spacious vessel bears down on our position, it also bears the word “Princess” across the front. It is, in fact, a bus. And it is owned by Princess Tours and Resorts. Burt says “I’m totally going to try this bus, just for fun.” I jumped to my feet with the last bit of optimism my soul could bear and said “hell yeah dude, that would be awesome!” at this point all three of us were anxiously standing with our thumbs in the wind.... And the bus passed us by.

Now, this was heartbreaking to experience. I can only imagine how it must feel for you to read it second hand. But save your tears, or if you cannot contain them, be sure they are tears of joy. The bus signaled
(in all its majesty) and pulled over! OF COURSE! it’s so obvious now, he didn’t want to pull over in front of us, and run the risk of reducing us to skid marks (and, in my case, a really ridiculously good-looking skid mark). You better believe we were grabbing up our many varied items of luggage quicker than a really fast…bellboy. We were ecstatic, elated and yes, we were relieved. As the air brakes hissed and the dust cloud subsided. The bus door opened and down stepped our savior. Our deliverer from certain peril. Emmett. Emmett is a middle-aged black man with a good heart, who could --and did-- empathize with 3 average guys down on their luck. And as luck would have it, he had a vehicle with enough room for the three of us… AND ALL OUR LUGGAGE. He popped the hatch for the luggage compartment and told us we could toss our bags in there. We were all verbalizing our gratitude to him for stopping, and we were doing it in quite a frantic manner. To which he replied “sure, I’ve needed a little help before, too.”

We boarded the bus and it was quite a thing. Not another soul on the bus -- Wait-- scratch that. B.B. King was playing on, nay, resonating through-out the length of, the bus. “just don’t put you feet in the seats” is all our new friend said as he took the pilot seat and began flipping switches and levers. He maneuvered the 55 passenger bus back onto the road and we found ourselves 3 of the Most lucky/blessed souls on the face of god’s earth.

It was kind of awkward at first. I tried desperately to think of something to say to Emmett that would break the ice. We started with introductions (I guess I got a little ahead of myself before, because we didn’t learn his name until this point). He told us how he wasn’t supposed to have passengers on the bus with him. He told us that his job was to deliver the bus to princess, who had recently purchased it. He asked us where we needed to go, we told him Anchorage, Alaska. He said that he wasn’t going that way. But he could take us as far as Whitehorse, which (I think) is about 427 KM from Watson Lake. Of course, this was great news to us, we were grateful beyond words. So, Glade and Burt pretty much crashed at that point and I moved up a couple of seats to talk to Emmett. I started off talking to him about BB King and how my dad instilled an appreciation for B.B. King with a cassette featuring Bobby “Blue“ Bland when I was pretty young. I told him about living in Memphis, The Land of the Delta Blues. He talked about a jazz/blues festival that happens out on the Russian River in California. Emmett is From Los Angeles, but he was raised in Missouri. We talked about the train, and I told him I didn’t know what to expect. He said he wanted to ride it, but we decided that it wasn’t going to be open for a couple of weeks. Emmett is retired, but he occasionally takes an odd job like delivering a bus. This was to be his first time in Alaska, which was why he took the gig. His employer compensated all of his expenses, so he was getting to see the Great Land for next to nothing. He used to drive a bus for a church group in Oklahoma City, a charter bus from L.A. to Las Vegas… he had pretty much driven busses some of everywhere.

We saw a few small herds of caribou, several of frozen lakes, some quaint little cabins tucked back into the mountain side… we talked about all of these things. The road however, the road was AWEFUL! And Emmett was very annoyed with the poor repair of it. Every winter when it freezes after a slight melt-off or a lot of rain, the water fills the crevices in the road, and then freezes. When it expands it ripples the road. The next time around the water is able to get beneath the pavement and cause even more damage when it freezes again. So basically, in the spring, long sections of road have to be ripped out and repaved. They hadn’t gotten around to ripping some out, they hadn’t gotten around to repaving what they had, and poor Emmett was charged with bringing that motor coach through all that in good shape.

We made it to Whitehorse. Emmett felt that he could drive for a couple more hours, so on we drove. This part of the story may seem really boring, and to be honest it was. Lots of road, not a lot of spectacular views, since everything had barely thawed out. But I snapped some pictures of snow-covered mountains, and frozen lakes. Emmett said that he had brought his camera but didn’t really get a chance to use it. Since it wouldn’t do to use it while he was driving, and he couldn’t very well take the time to stop the bus just to take a picture. I offered to get it out and get some pictures for him, and he was all for it.

Lots of road, most of it bumpy as all hell. Lots of lakes we had to drive around. We were officially in The Yukon Territory ever since about an hour or so outside Watson Lake. There was next to nothing between Watson Lake and Whitehorse, and it appeared that it was the same story out of White whores. We were now headed for Beaver Creek, A town about 20 minutes from the Alaskan border. We weren’t coving road like Emmett had expected on account of the condition of the road, The Alaskan Highway is comparable in some stretches to Damon Valley Road in Higgins, Oklahoma, and sometimes more like Mountain Station/limestone road (also backwoods Oklahoma.) and Driving a 45 foot bus over it was quite a chore.

I started getting pretty tired and Emmett told me that the seats at the very back of the bus made a decent place to lay down. So I did.

International Road Trip: Entry 7

I again visited the land of cotton candy, loose women and change. When I Awoke we were stopped at a roadside rest area… I obliged to relieve myself. Me and Emmett by this time were as chummy as shipmates. We talked about the perks of education, he told me more about his youth… growing up on a farm in Missouri. I told him how I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma…I reminisced about the great taste of fresh cow milk. Or even a day old jar of milk, after the cream has separated and risen to the top…. And mom tells you always shake it up but that cream just tastes so good. Hmm, Mm! Good memories.

Emmett reiterated that he wasn’t allowed to have passengers on his bus, and that due to technicalities he wouldn’t be able to give us a ride across the border, He evidently had had a hell of time coming across the Canadian boarder even without breaking any rules and he didn’t want any trouble coming into Alaska. Of course, we agreed. He had been generous enough to take us as far as he had.

I took it on myself to manage the map for Emmett. He pretty much got a visual on every sorry excuse for a town we passed through. Emmett is a master bus driver. In all my experience with busses, they are only good for holding up traffic. I don’t recall ever having seen someone get passed by a bus before our ride with Emmett. He passed almost every car we came upon. He cruised at about 70 when the roads permitted. Like I said, the roads were pretty hashed up. He told me about running out of gas on the road from L.A. to Las Vegas a few years before. And how it had cost $400 - $500 just to get the roadside assistance people to drive out with the gas.

He told me about his 21 foot boat back home, and how he couldn’t wait to get back and finish working on it. It had a 350 engine in it, new this and that. He seemed really happy when he talked about his boat.

At long last, we came to Beaver Creek, BC. It was about 10:30 at night, Emmett pulled into the first hotel he spotted (there was only one other…) We had pretty much decided that as close as we were to the border that this is where we would have to start thumbing again. We thanked Emmett profusely. We went to check into the hotel and learned that it was 90 (Canadian dollars) for a single-bed room. We discussed and voted to check prices across the street. While me and Burt waited with the luggage, Glade went to check prices across the way. Apu (I’m not certain that that was his name… but it fit) came out and asked if we were going to stay at his hotel, We told him there were 3 of us and we were strapped for cash (not entirely true, but..) He said that he had one room for 3 left, and that he would cut us a deal. I asked if he knew what the rates across the street were, he said “ummm… about 150, lately…” to which I replied “ A hundred and fifty dollars for a room!? Wow… you guys really are aware that this is the last stop before the border, huh?” He didn’t respond… he just kinda hung his head and walked off. I looked down and saw that I was standing in a pile of dog crap. Wait, I think Burt pointed that out… anyway, it proved fortuitous. While I was wiping it off on a post I noticed an SD card in the gravel of the parking lot. It was a 512 MB card, without any pictures on it… score!

Glade came back and said that it was $65 bucks for a room across the street. Looks like apu was really just trying to gyp us into staying at his crap-hole establishment, after all. We pooled the money and sent glade back to get the room. We weren’t sure if they would let us take a single-bed room if they knew there were 3 of us.

After putting our stuff in the room (the “motel” was actually a series of modified mobile homes.) we went back over to Apu’s, because Burt and I had heard that Curry Chicken was on the menu. Emmett was in the restaurant. He invited us over to his table and offered me the rest of his curry chicken… I pleasantly declined but he insisted that if I didn’t take it that it was going to go to waste because he was full. I finally took it. We wanted to buy his meal, but he declined on account of his employers compensating all his expenses. He told us that if we wanted a ride to the border, he would be leaving early in the morning. Again, he couldn’t take us across the border, but he was willing to take us close. He took his leave and Glade and Burt ordered meals. (I was eating the curry chicken.) It was all really good food, we shared all the food, Burt got Fish N’ Chips, Glade got Salisbury Steak. We went back to the room and went to bed after we each took a shower for the first time since Seattle. I had Glade set his Alarm for 5 AM. Emmett had told me at some point, the day before, that he had gotten on the road at around 5:30.. And I figured he’d have the same schedule again.

So, we got up and got our stuff gathered up. Made a makeshift envelope for the key and pushed it under the office door. They weren’t open. We drug our stuff across the street just in time to see Emmett heading toward the bus. He greeted us at the open Luggage compartment. Perfect.

We piled in and hit the road. It was only about 20 miles to the customs point. But it took a while to get there on account of the REALLY CRAPPY road. When we did get there it kinda snuck up on us… that is to say that we didn’t see the building until we were pretty much right on it. We thanked Emmett again and piled off the bus. We walked to the building and he drove… but we were only too certain that they had watched us get off the bus. As we got closer to the building they waved us to come into the building. We came in with passports (and in my case, Birth Certificate and Drivers License) in hand. They asked us where we came from and we gave a cereal box version of our adventure. One of the elderly customs officers was going back and forth between our information and Emmett (who was at the drive-through) finally (and by that I mean about 5 nerve-racking minutes later ) they told us we could pass through. Emmett told us to wait for him. After they got done with him… about 2 minutes later, He picked us up and we were back on the road. He told them that he had picked us up in Beaver Creek to give us a ride to Tok, Alaska. Way to go Emmett! Smooth-talking old man.

I dozed off, Emmett stopped for gas at the next station but it would only give him 45 (AMERICAN!) dollars worth for some reason. But it was enough to get us to Tok.

International Road Trip: Final Entry

We arrived in Tok. Safely I might add. I woke up and was hit with a pang of sadness. Not so much because we were losing our ride, and, subsequently, certainty of our fate, but because it was time for goodbyes. Emmett is a really good guy. And we owed him everything. I kept wanting to do something to show him my appreciation, But money felt cheap, and buying him a meal seemed pointless since he was getting them for free otherwise… I really couldn’t think of much else besides assailing him with gratitude and a good handshake.

We unloaded our luggage and toted them over to the Grumpy Grizzly Café. Me and Burton went on inside and got a table for 4, Though we weren’t sure if Emmett would be joining us. We were pleased when he did. The food was hot and yummy. As we talked with Emmett we were suddenly distracted by an old man in a cowboy hat. He walked up to Emmett and said “ I would have figured you’d be dead.” to which Emmett replied “I thought I’d find you hanging.” He stood up and reached out for a handshake and they greeted each other, the man took a seat at the table next to ours and we were introduced ( I forget his name, now but I think it was Mike, therefore I will, from here on out, refer to him as Mike.) and it was explained to us that he was another driver of a Princess bus. When Mike asked “did you find some stragglers?” Emmett replied “these are my friends.” Somewhat bashfully, because it was evident that he had been caught breaking rules. But Mike was totally cool with it. He then proceeded to ask us if he had cursed the Alaska Highway. Emmett was only too eager to confirm it. It was uncanny how mike set up the scene in his mind… Emmett driving slowly around a windy road by a frozen lake, saying ‘He told me it was pretty scenery but he didn’t say ANYTHING about these ROADS’ (which was EXACTLY --to a T -- what had happened at one point in the trip.) after another 10 minutes of talking about their trips, Emmett said “Mike, tell them who you are…” to which he replied “nahh… they don’t want to know who I am”
“of course they do, This guy (jerking a thumb in my direction) is a musician”
“nah… I don’t think so.”

At this point I was keenly interested “who are you?” Emmett took the liberty of answering that…
“this is Ray Charles personal driver”
“REALLY?!” Was the resounding response from Burton, Glade and myself.
We met Ray Charles personal bus driver of over 20 years, up to the very last tour. It was pretty awesome to think that we were talking to a guy who talked to a guy who everyone knew. “you’re in the presence of a celebrity” Emmett said

We talked some more about some of everything, Mike talked about some guy who had been flying a helicopter back and forth over the US/Canada border all day. And how the customs officers had asked him if he’d seen another helicopter on a trailer, which he had. He asked us if we’d seen it, negative.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes to Emmett and he got back in his big bus and he and Mike set out to finish the rest of their long journey about 240 more miles (I think) to Fairbanks.

We, however were going south. We walked down to the big green sign that read “Anchorage 328 miles” (among others) and we picked up where we had left off (when we were picked up.) Thumbing it. This time it was a little colder. We started with a little better attitudes than last time, after all, we got a hot meal at the Grumpy Grizz, We had just made impossible time crossing the Yukon Territory. We had a lot of luck on our side and we ( at least I) felt pretty optimistic.

At first there was really no traffic. We didn’t even see our first big rig for a good half hour or more. And another thing, they were all taking the highway to Fairbanks, we were about 100 yards from the intersection and no one was really turning our way. That was okay though, it was really early… traffic was going to pick up.

After a while Glade went to use the bathroom at the gas station…he was gone for a half hour or so before he came back. Traffic started to pick up, but no one pick us up. I don’t think even got a second glance from the truckers passing our way. There were a few campers, probably more than there had been in Watson Lake, but they all just gave us a shrug as they passed.

There was a black SUV that kept crossing and recrossing the intersection, at one point it came our way, signaled and turned right in front of us, into a church driveway. A bunch of little kids all dressed In Sunday best. Evidently she was driving all over Tok collecting kids. A kind of shuttle service as best as I can tell. It was an Eskimo woman, probably in her late 30’s. she continued to drive around and turn in and out of the church driveway for the rest of the day, and eventually we stopped trying to get a ride from her.

I went to the gas station and used the bathroom. Looked around from something to munch on. Couldn’t find anything that wasn’t grossly overpriced. So I headed back to the spot. On the way I found a flap from a cardboard box. I took it over and we wrote Anchorage on it. It didn’t really help. Except that people slowed down to read it. Not that they were considering picking us up… they were just curious.

Then we saw it. A Holland-America bus (that’s who we work for). It was coming from the direction we had come. We all saw it, and as it approached the intersection we figured that it too would be going to Fairbanks. But then, it turned toward us! We jumped up and did our best to contain our excitement. It got closer and closer, we could see the driver now, and there were others in the bus too. I made pleading motions, Burton thumbed, glade.. I couldn’t see him from where I stood ( he was behind me.) but he was thumbing, I’m certain of it. I heard the engine stop accelerating and I thought ‘wow, here we go!’ but an instant later the engine was revved again, the woman bus driver was shifting. ( I would like to say here that she must have been totally incompetent because it doesn’t take that long to shift.) As she passed us we could see that there was not a single open seat, everyone was on their feet looking at us and (maybe this is just in my head) laughing at our hopelessness.

#^$* this! We were going on about 3 hours at this point and no luck. Glade went back to the gas station for a bit. I can’t remember if he got something to snack on or what. When he came back me and Burton had pretty much decided to take an invitation we had gotten from some jolly, devout catholic woman to come in to church. We were desperate, our reasoning was that if we went to church then someone would take pity on us and give us a ride to Anchorage. We left glade with the bags… I think he thought we were joking when we said we were going to church, hell… even Burton thought we were joking, then I started walking up the driveway. We looked back and Glade flipped us off. But he was smiling so we didn’t take it to heart. We walked in and sat in the back and listened to some verses of scripture and what not, some vane repetitions and so forth. A few people gave us a smile.
There was a middle-aged couple that was in charge of singing. They did a couple of special numbers, but mostly they just went to the front and sang louder than everyone else. They started communion and sent the donation basket around.

Glade came in and sat with us, which meant that all the stuff was sitting on the roadside by its self. So Burton went out to be with it. Shortly thereafter the services ended and one guy came back and introduced himself. He asked who we came with and we told him we were just passing through and trying to get to Anchorage. And that was that.

Okay so maybe that was a little wrong of us to try and solicit a ride from good church going people. But we were really sick of sitting out there and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
And the weather couldn’t have been better for it. The sermon that was given was about reaching out to those outside the church and having Christ-like love and selflessness and so forth. Guess the people didn’t really think it was a principle that they had to apply in their own lives. Because all we got were laughs from people leaving.

Burton went and talked to someone running a little ice cream stand across the street, she recommended that we go wait for the bus at the Grumpy Grizzly. We decided that might be worth looking into. It turns out there’s a sort of shuttle service that runs from Tok to Anchorage. The cost was 90 dollars (not doll hairs) each. We thought we might as well try to get a free ride until 2:30 when the bus came. So we waited and continued to try and hitch hike. Glade went to the gas station again and we saw him run up and cry out to us to hurry over. We grabbed our stuff and some of his and started running because it sounded like he said “The bus is leaving!” which totally sucks, because at this point its only like 12:40. So we get most of the way to the van that says something about being a shuttle service and the driver is getting in. and we’re getting desperate. I told glade to drop his stuff and run grab the driver. Which he did.

Turns out that that guy was making a different run, to Fairbanks. Whew!

We toted our stuff back over to the café and grabbed some lunch. We got sub sandwiches and I have to say that it was, hands down, the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. We got some chocolate cake for dessert and waited for that shuttle.

The shuttle showed up around 2:10 and we went out to load our stuff, The driver was this Willie Neilson wannabe. Probably late 50’s. He took our money. (mine and burtons, glade went with the “don’t-pay-till-they-ask-y
ou” policy.) so we get on the road, just me, Burton and Glade, and some pregnant girl… and the driver.

We set out for Anchorage. The guy says we’ll probably get there around 10 PM. Pretty long drive, huh? He set the cruise control at 60 and let her go. I tried to sleep. But I was situated right over the rear axle and it was really bouncy. Not to mention the driver was oblivious of all the pot holes in that god-forsaken stretch of road. I would doze off and an instant later be launched from the seat by a huge bump in the road. At first it was just a little disheartening, but it soon became the worst experience this whole road trip had to offer. I got really frustrated and I would wake up cursing (not inaudibly). After an hour or so we stopped for a little rest. The driver went in to see if he could pick up any more passengers (this was a 12 passenger van… did I mention that?) and he sure enough found one. I got back from the bathroom and realized that the pregnant woman was taking a smoke break. Made me feel sick to my stomach. Loathsome. It was really all I could do to not rip her a new one. ****ing heartless bitch. Anyway. Our new passenger was everything you would expect to encounter on a greyhound bus. He smelled of old cake-y grease and dander. And he had a world class mountain man beard going on, complete with ratty unkempt clothing. I named him Prospector. I wish you could have seen him.

He even had the laugh and nervous disposition. He would talk low and quiet and fast. And then burst out with his cackle. I tried sleeping some more but it wasn’t to be. I shook my fist at the heavens and sat up straight. Glade was in full blown conversation with the prospector. We made a few more stops. Each time I tried to get a good photo, but I was sitting in the seat behind him and all I could get of him was when he turned his head to talk to glade or look out the window. I made eye contact with Glade and said “Can you get me a scenic picture?” he caught on and didn’t miss a beat. He tried to be inconspicuous, but it was pretty tough. And he didn’t really get anything salvageable.

We stopped again at a gas station and I got a picture with a Totem Pole. Then I had a great idea. The prospector was already back in the car and raring’ to go. So as I approached the van I got my camera ready and held it up and, rather loudly said “ oh yeah, look at that… that’s a great picture” and this caught The Prospectors attention and he turned to look at me, or rather, right at the camera! I got the picture. You better believe I got that picture. it’s a little dark but its there. SO YOU DO GET TO SEE HIM! You can go look now if you’d like… go ahead! Its in my International Road trip album.

From there… there’s really not a lot to tell. We drove a lot more. And when we got to Anchorage we dropped off the smoker bitch, then we took the prospector to some remote curb. And the driver took us to the international Hostel of Anchorage or something.

We got a room and put all of our stuff in there. We decided to walk down to the train yard and get a good look at the train cars we would be working on. But we didn’t see them. We didn’t know where to look.

Glade split, me an Burt decided to get a look at some places where we might want to live. Burton had gotten some addresses from his siblings who had worked on the train in years previous. As we walked down H street glade caught up with us. We walked around a little and when we had gotten totally turned around, and realized that we wouldn’t be able to find the real addresses before curfew at the hostel… we decided to head back in. we all slept in beds for the first time since Burtons uncles house. Back in Idaho.

The End.

P.S. But it wasn’t like we slept like rocks or anything… the beds weren’t that great. I guess you could say we slept like rocks that were sleeping on rocks.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I washed out.

It's kind of funny to think that 3 months ago I wouldn't have dreamed of leaving the train early. Hell, 3 weeks ago I was still considering staying in Alaska after the summer. Here I am though, leaving for the lower 48 in less than 20 hours.

Maybe I was a little hasty in my decision to leave. Maybe a day off to step back and evaluate my life was a little more time off than I needed. Maybe I should have given it one more run to make sure. But it just wasn't worth it. In having two days off, I realized the sheer weightlessness I felt by simply not being subjected to the hell that is the train. That's all the reason I needed just then. I logged on to and found the best deal from Anchorage to SLC, and whadayaknow? a week away. $ka-CHING$

No more.

No more placating drooling masses of decrepit geriatrics.
No more subjecting myself to humiliation after humiliation as the face of the organized crime syndicate that posses as a tour company, filching the life savings from the feeble grasp of said decrepit geriatrics. No more succumbing to the fickle will of the most incompetent, delusional, ass-clown manager/reptile ever to slip into existence by some colossal oversight on the part of the Powers That Be. I find myself unabashedly anticipating the long-overdue rectification of that oversight.
No more of The Mole to drive home a perfectly awful day.
No more.

I've decided never to work for a company whose ethics sit by the door as a matter of convenience. And with the topsy-turvy atmosphere around the train yard, you can bet that those ethics have been gathering dust for decades, this alleged "Standard of excellence" (which very well might govern the rest of Holland-America Tours, but damn sure doesn't out here in the sticks.) traded in for a facade of genuine concern or effort. In reality, they know these people won't be coming back this way any time soon anyway, so they don't even remotely try to make good on the offers, it's the beauty of prepaid vacation packages.

I could go on and on about what I wont miss. But I'm just about over this whole episode. at least, until next summer when I have a fat student loan to pay off (I don't expect Uncle HAL to hire me back, nor do I ever expect to be that hopeless... but I may try this again someday.)

There are a few things I will miss. obviously number one, the money. While it's true that my life has been living hell these past 3 months, it has brought a better fiscal flow than I could have hoped for back in the lower 48. And I guess what sets me apart from just about everyone else up here, is that I'm not here to dig myself out of a financial sinkhole. I don't have any debt. all the money I've made is mine to spend, so leaving early is a choice that was mine to make. and in the end I no price was worth my sanity.

I will also miss the people, I've met some really great people up here. More of the other variety to be sure, but I will miss several people, you know who you are, and if you don't and find reasonable doubt to justify putting yourself on this list, then good, I'm glad our positive moments outweighed the bad.

I know I wasn't the best on the train. hell, I might have been in the mix at the bottom of the barrel. I'm sure I was running on borrowed time with some of my co-workers, there will probably be some resonating grumbling about my deficiencies... sorry I was slow and disconcerted.

For those of you still plugging away, good luck, I'll miss you. I won't name names. Someone would get left off and be offended. Or else I would name someone who truly hates me and then what?


Peace y'all, thanks for reading.

How Does She Bloody Do That?

I've been pondering it for some time. There's something about our landlady, I couldn't put a finger on it till now.

She's the innkeeper from Muppet's Treasure Island, and in more ways than one.

She talks out of the corner of her mouth, and through her teeth, which are similar to those of the R.O.U.S's in Princess Bride. she snarls everything she says and I could swear she sometimes chomps at the air to emphasize her point.

As we found out a week ago, she has that all-seeing-eye attribute as well, where she somehow knows when something is amiss and is on the scene in a flash. She may rely on her mangy Chichua-something to sense this for her, but she was on the scene to police the comings and goings of our apartment. and made it very clear that they are in the business of renting apartments, not being personable to tenants. We (Robbie, Glade and I) were too taken aback, and in terror of having our ears boxed, that we had to lie to her when she inquired as to the number of tenants in Apt. #8, we told her 3 and she was livid. imagine if we'd named off the 5 of us. She waddled past us with disgust (on our part as well) and made sure we knew who we were talking to. She has since assaulted me with double edged razor, and laser-beam glares in the hallway, despite my attempts at cordiality. She continues to watch us from her living room window, to be sure that no more than two (2) tenants are entering the premises. I know the Innkeeper had more of an "All-hearing-ear" we'll say that’s how she does it.

Not only that (though its plenty enough), she's also got that weathered, feathered look to her. her nicotine blonde hair seems barely rooted to her blotted scalp, more like salvaged stray hairs from a brush held on by static electricity alone, although she's not even balding. She has a dry and leathery complexion, beady eyes and a resident furrowed brow. Her breasts make up the majority of her torso. I think this may very well be the reason behind her disgruntled composure.. If I had to lug 2 gallon jugs around on my chest all day it would get to me, too. She waddles (given, I've only encountered her on the stairs) and huffs. calling out to her precious wiener/taco bell dog hybrid, or else hunching over to grab it up and baby it down those two flights of stairs.

She really is psychotic. I heard her talking about "number 4" in the parking lot the other night (while her dog shat by the side of the building) walking around the building looking for signs of life through their windows, and saying how she was certain they had music playing, she was definitely bothered that they had "lights on at this hour" (2 AM) her husband seems pretty calloused to it, but even he seems eccentric.

I'll be glad to be shed of them.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Journal Entry. RE: February 14th


A bloody heart, messy crimson, sticky and warm.

It's a Valentine - Fresh-baked sugar cookie with red icing- a consolation prize, everyone wins. “Take ONE” The note reads, the strict instruction is surrounded by hearts and arrows, drawn in red marker almost as sloppy as the icing on the cookies. The pink and white parchment is in the shape of a heart. I wondered to myself “Does anyone else find these festivities a bit overwhelming?” A kind thought, none the less. I imagine the task of making cookies for an entire 2nd grade class started sometime around 7PM yesterday and ended in the early hours of the morning. As evidenced by the progressively sloppier job of slathering great globs of food-colored icing onto the tediously cut and baked shapes of hearts and letters L and V.

Nothing ruins my appetite like sugar on sugar, don’t get me wrong, I like cookies, but I think the icing is just too much. I took a cookie simply because it felt like the right thing to do, just like it was the right thing to do to make valentines for the ugly girls. My mind was elsewhere as I took my seat, yet I still faintly acknowledged all two cards on my desk. Pipe cleaners, construction paper, glitter and glue, the staples of Valentines Day. Although the messages were quaint and heartfelt, I can’t take them seriously on a day when they are exchanged in mass. The only thing these cards said to me was, “Evan, no one should cry on valentines day, so here’s a reason not to.” This is the notion behind my own cards to the Ugly Girls, and it occurred to me that that the thought is universal. I wasn’t going to cry anyway, I don’t have some tough guy complex, I just don’t have anyone to cry about, and I don’t feel like that’s something to cry about.

"OK class..."I already knew what comes next. “ Time to make valentines for Mom and Dad!” I’ve already made mine and left them on the ironing board and bathroom mirror at home. So I sifted through my backpack for a book instead. Any book… Color by Numbers, Notebooks, storybooks…. For me, it was you, Notebook. And here we are, now you are caught up to speed.

Across from me is my best friend Robbie. He is writing with a crayon and laughing at his own joke, but he wont share it, at least not until quiet time. On my left is Caitie, she is intently, if not incompetently, spoiling a new piece of red paper with her plastic Saf-T scissors. Vigorously, rigorously chomping a fine red mulch onto her desk. I’m betting she will accidentally topple the bottle of school glue perched by her elbow before she finishes. It just crossed my mind that I should show her the trick to cutting out even-sided hearts, but I don’t want to take away from her valentine’s originality. She seems to be enjoying her frustration a little. And besides, her mother will think its precious.

I’m just looking around the room, it looks like I’m the only one not making a valentine for my parents. maybe I should let my habit of over-anticipation wear off before I become a functional member of society, it seems like I try to hard. Now Teacher will probably ask me why and I’ll tell her I’m writing a letter for my valentines. I guess I just don’t see a point. I mean, before recess I made 4 or 5 cards. all for people I don’t even care for, okay it was only 3, but still, I think I’ve done my time. I don’t see why we dedicate an entire day to practice of superficiality.

Look at me, I’m just a regular stick in the mud. Maybe when I'm in middle school I’ll start wearing black and drawing pentagrams in sharpie, and coloring my fingernails black while I‘m at it. Maybe my "attitude" will simply a manifestation of my “Rebellious Nature” as mom might say, "He needs to feel that he's in control of his own life, and so he trovers his identity by questioning the state of society and developing his own unique set of ideals..." oh man, she'll probably go on and on.... I think I'll storm off and slam doors yelling things like "you don't KNOW me!" but i suppose we'll have to wait to find out.

I guess I can see where Valentines Day is kind of a "rule" in my mind, galling in its inane ritualism . I don’t mean like taking your shoes off at the door, just like… I don’t know… blessing the food? Why do we have to make a big deal out of something that should be … never mind.

My point is, I don’t even have a girlfriend, why should I be made to participate in a holiday for couples? Mia and Johnathan seemed VERY genuinely enchanted on the playground today. Good for them, let THEM celebrate "Valentimes day". But for me, I shouldn’t even be thinking about girls yet… it’s not like I’m mature enough to be in any sort of relationship. Good practice maybe? Are we just going through the motions now so we’ll know what to do as adults? Like a fire drill? Maybe less of a fire drill for some, more like “1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” or naming the 7 continents. But it’s all a fire drill to me. ‘In case a girl sets your heart aglow, here’s a list of things to know…’

I’m pretty sure this holiday has done nothing for mankind except wreak anxiety in relationships…maybe for some that’s the only excitement left. Each new year, more new couples will adhere to the rule that if you don’t spend such-and-such amount on chocolates or lingerie, or say such-and-such a phrase ( “Be my valentine?” or “I love you.” or “Marry me?” Etc.) then they don’t truly love their boyfriend or girlfriend. then again, maybe it was an excuse for Johnathan to finally hold Mia's hand, now that he had something to fall back on.
I don’t know why I’m spending my time pondering this stuff. Or maybe I’m just repeating someone else’s opinion. Either way, I think this whole day should just drop off the calendar. 27 days in February sounds good to me.

Robbie said that we probably aren’t allowed to write lingerie in our journals, and that I might get in trouble for knowing what that is. Probably better play it safe, But I don’t know who would care to read this book... Its all a lot of “silly kid stuff”. Robbie is going to come over after school to play cars, I wish we could go over to his house instead because my cars have dirt and stuff in them. Oh well, maybe mom will stop at Alco and get me that box of hot wheels. I’ll ask Austin if he’ll get her to get it for him for his birthday… she’ll probably at least swing by there. Maybe I’ll just get some more marbles with my allowance.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fleeting Memory of my Youth

He jumps, rock to rock, with the agility that betrays his age. his tromp is accompanied by one arm raised, flailing in a mimicry of The Man From Snowy River. Nothing thrills a young heart like emulating a hero. He leaps upward and outward He's now at full gallop on the slabs of mossy limestone, clad in rubber boots that yield as sure a footing as any bronco's hooves. The incline of the hillside gives a perfect ebb of propulsion, and the sprigs of hickory and ash lick softly and woosh by, giving an air of risk. Feeding the young imagination with the makings of a grand scene. His arm makes another full loop above his head as he gains speed and leaps from the largest of the stones in his path. Now, he wills himself into slow motion- just like Clancy- He gives an encouraging 'Yah!' to his invisible stallion. And then down, down, down with the soft breeze amplifying the rush of blood through his ears.

Amazing that this child hasn't broken a bone. the embankment he is descending is a decent 40 degree slope of stone. littered with pine-knot and stumps. The sapling pine that brave this incline are scattered, sparse and humble. offering little to brace against in case of a tumble. and now, not 20 yards from our young hero, is the Abyssal Drop. The trees below reach up past the lip of the ledge and are, to the untrained eye, the same size as a sapling hedge. Thanks to the wind, their height is betrayed, there is a notably more pronounced sway to them, and its becomes apparent that they are reaching much higher than at first it seems. the drop is otherwise unmarked, the ledge buried in a thick layer of brown pine needles and bark, dry and splintery on top and moist and peatish beneath, knitted together with the occasional leaf. and hidden in that mass, a tangle of roots, as if their purpose is a loose foothold to young and stubborn rubber boots. the drop is a good 25 feet of air, the ground below more rocky and bare, the trees at the bottom many years older. and all along the bottom of this wall lay boulders, they are the only padding against a fall.

The boy slows his pace, well before he approaches the ledge. he digs in his heels against the earth. he knows of the peril, still off a ways. he turns his steed to cross the incline and comes to a stop. now heres the second part of his quest, scrambling back to the top.
His mind now throws off the guise of cowboy, and trades it for that of an Indian. one who knows the land well. he is every bit as nimble in his ascent as before, now planning a path based on presence of trees, which he uses as holds to bolster himself upright. now and then the roots of these plants prove to weak against the load and are drawn from their precious earth. Maybe Indian is not the right persona for this, he decides. and with all the reason his young mind can muster, McGuyver takes over. He is now agile of necessity, any rustling may rouse the senses of enemy goons. its now expedient that he lay low to the ground and make his ascension as speedily as possible without being noticed. he breathes heavily, suppressing the sound as much as possible. in a few more moments he makes the summit.

Now to the red Toyota Pickup, where a cooler awaits, stuffed with Shasta root beer and strawberry soda. content now, he rejoins mom, dad and the rest of the clan. in the shade beside the gravel road. the one that winds up the back of the mountain, past the path to the bass pond, and on up to the gas well where ends abruptly. He has been here a thousand times, and it never gets old. this is Windy Long-Way-To-Fall.

Friday, July 20, 2007

life is... good/strange/unpredictable

Here I sit in a lawn chair, on a second story balcony, eating my honey mustard chicken sandwich.
theres a constant buzz overhead, single prop airplanes that take off from the nearby flight tour airstrip every 10 minutes or so--wait make that 5 minutes or less. I try to tune it out because I'm listening to toddlers traumatizing each other in the adjacent yard, at the Daycare. It's kinda strange, until now I didn't realize the great trust that the proprietors of that daycare put in the modern marvel that is the chain link fence. I can count on one hand - even one finger - the number of times that I've seen these kids under adult supervision. But theres plenty to keep young minds occupied. several bicycles, and an overabundance of molded plastic play things all puzzle-pieced into the yard - 5 slides, 4 playhouses, a picnic table, a jungle gym, a plethora of Flintstones-style, red and yellow cars, and a woody wagon version too!

Now that I take a closer look, the yard is a self-contained community. A squad car version of those previously mentioned cars is parked behind a playhouse, and in keeping with Alaskan values it remains the least utilized vehicle in this little 'hood. We have an array of tires, some brightly painted and set in cement to hold them upright... sort of a vague representation of the overpasses in the greater Anchorage area, this is for these young ones to learn how to spot a good place to "dig in" and hide. theres a taxi-cab service, consisting of a tricycle with an elongated back seat for passengers, the absence of a bulkhead goes to show that the tykes are still fairly innocent at this poin-- wait, we have just had an official car jacking, the green and brown Woody Wagon has just been commandeered by an Athabaskan boy with a red and yellow Hawaiian shirt.
but out comes the caretaker (two times now, that I've seen her.) bearing licorice, lets see what happens...

Hmm... No stabbings this time around, There seems to be general contentment when theres a handout. soon enough it will be back to the loud ruckus of banshee rule - hair-pulling, fit-throwing, some in alliance, some alone. but they are all plugging away at their mundane, redundant lifestyle. Then again, they are kids, and these behaviors are expected. all under the watchful eyes of the chain-link fence. Here come two parents, they are met at the door by the caretaker. they all stand back and watch the little people interactions play out in front of them. As one father watched his child wreck a car he mused that his insurance was going to be through the roof and asked his son about the mortgage on the playhouse not getting paid.

4:45PM. for 3 of these little people it's time to go home. there goes the caretaker... back to business.

My next door neighbor takes a break, he has a lawn chair to sit in, too. we share our balcony. I'm not even sure that he's been doing anything, but he can't smoke inside, so I guess his lungs just got off of a break, and his mind is about to clock out. He smokes weed all day. Come on, He's a DJ, that's what he does. I don't know if pot is really a relaxant, he seems to have to exert himself to talk. like the British, speaking seems to be an ordeal. meticulously -painstakingly- forming his words. he's on the phone with someone.
He kicks back and takes a drag. He exhales it with a satisfactory cough and slurps some fresh Alaskan air before continuing his conversation.

"some nigger broke into the house a couple days ago and made off with the tables, I'm real lucky because I took the needles off the night before to change 'em. they're $90 a piece!"

In the 3 months I've been here I hadn't taken the opportunity to get to know him, so yesterday I talked to him briefly, he started to tell me how he and his girl came out here last year in an '84 Saab hatchback, but I had to cut him off,it went something like "...we were thinkin' 'Wow the last frontier--" "hey, sorry I gotta flip my grilled cheese sandwich..." "yeah, man, you do your thing!" I got my grilled cheese sandwich and a bottle of water, but when I returned he had already finished his joint and headed back indoors. but I will say this, that sandwich was one of the most perfectly toasted, melty-cheesy, complete-with-chicken-patty-y sandwiches I've ever made.

till next time...

Gypsy Kid.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Finding my niche

All I want is to be someone who brings quality to the world. Goodness, in some form that mankind will deem as worthwhile, maybe something they will even be inspired by, so that goodness begets goodness. Yes, I admit, I really want it to be in a big way, and yes, I want the recognition for my accomplishments. But in the end I want the satisfaction and pride of being able to say, 'I gave that to humanity, I invented that'. But everything I have passion about has already been conquered, and probably 10 times better than I could ever do it... its daunting. but I have this feeling deep in me - its as much a part of me as my conscious - that this is going to be the point of my life, something big that I'm not ready to do yet. I don't want it to come to me easily, I want to deserve it. but how can I measure up?

I feel as if everything I know is a reflection of some one else’s life. Someone has already been recognized for it. Every fantasy that I've entertained has been lived by another. And it is inevitable, if I have considered it, it has been the passion of someone else. I feel like my mind is only capable of conceiving the prime of sloppy seconds... great idea Evan, too bad its all been done before.

Why is it that I crave the chance to live day to day jumping trains across the continent? I grew impatient as a kid, waiting for my independence so that I could set out on my own. Even just a few months ago I couldn't think of anything but the thrill of dropping everything and living out of a backpack for a time undefined. I love traveling, I love not being tethered to the mundane lifestyle that everyone seems to cling to for security.

One instance where I have the same raw passion for something that is a reflection of someone else’s life.
The thought of living on the road has been less of a dream and more of a resolution, and inevitability if you will. The train-jumping example is just a taste of what has occupied my imagination since I was just a wee Bearn, long before I knew it was the life of my first literary idol, Jack London. I started collecting stamps because of the Jack London memorial stamp. My parents owned The Collected Works of Jack London (which I have long since claimed as my own). I would get lost for days in the arctic world he described, retaining less of the stories and more of the vivid depictions of a place where one could witness their spit freeze before hitting the snow. I was certain that one day I would die there of hypothermia, slowly being subdued by the elements. I imagined the infinite void of ice beyond the veil of the blizzard snow surrounding me as I began to doubt my decision to step out for a walk, bumbling and blowing my last chance to build a fire.

More recently (today, in fact) I realized that the experiences I've had only mimic the experiences of others. a couple of months ago I had an experience that I noted as pretty singular. on a road trip to Alaska with a couple of my friends, our car broke down somewhere in British Columbia close to the Yukon territory border. we hitch hiked out with a kindly old man who was delivering a motor coach to Princess Tours Fairbanks Headquarters. He picked us up with the understanding that he would only take us as far as Whitehorse, Y.T. but upon arriving at Whitehorse he decided we could ride along, at least until he stopped for the night. We ended up making it all the way along the Alaska Highway to Beaver Creek, about 14 miles from the border. he stopped and bid us farewell. mentioning that if we were around in the morning he would take us closer to the border, but reiterated that he couldn't permit us to ride across the border because he would be in big trouble with his employer and possibly with U.S. Customs if they caught him giving hitch hikers a ride in a commercial vehicle that was not supposed to have passengers.
in the end we probably walked somewhere between 80 and 100 yards... yes the customs officers saw us hop out of the bus, but they were pretty easy-going.
Long story short he gave us a ride to Tok, Alaska where we parted ways. Emmett was a man with a great big heart who helped out 3 guys who couldn't have hoped for that kind of favor.

Now keep that in mind.

Today, I was reading the final two chapters of the book Into the Wild. A true story about a young man who came to Alaska in '92 to have a great outdoor adventure. I read that he hitch-hiked from Dawson City all the way to Fairbanks. How'd he do it? sheer luck. it's not the easiest thing in the world to get a ride in Canadia, trust me. He got a ride from a kind 63 year-old retired man who was delivering an RV to Fairbanks, Alaska. at first, The man didn't want to take him, he told him " this could get me canned." but in the end he decided he could take him as far as Whitehorse. when they got to Whitehorse he had come to enjoy his company and took him all the way to Fairbanks. I feel like I've lived a moment in someone else’s life.

It seems like the universe is an hourglass, filled with people as innumerable as the sandy beaches. we pass from one orb to the other, we are shifting sands that count the time in eternity, my life is a single grain of sand, rough-edged in its own way, but indiscernible from the lives of those countless others... maybe the grain of sand that represents my existence is born from the same stone as those I feel an affinity with, some who have already dropped and landed, and are buried under yesterday, I'm just now joining the eddy of sand, the churning swell that channels me to my moment of freedom, falling, I only get that moment to glimmer, as we all get our chance to join the heap below. but, when I pass through that calculated orifice of fate, that keeps order to everything. I want to stand out from the rest, I want to be the crystalline silicone among the dull brown, I want to fall away from the rest and have my glory with the few who have the rough edge that catches on the spout, who spin away from the predictable stream of life. so while we're all together, with the gravity of destiny pulling the sands of time, I'm just waiting my turn.