Thursday, April 06, 2006

random things weird people think about while driving for a long time alone

Driving from Vancouver to Arizona is best done over the course of more than two days. I did not have the liberty to take more time due to a fictitious delivery date and this is the cause of only slight disappointment. I would have liked to have passed through Wala Wala, WA, for which I long ago prepared a lovely song and dance, but that will have to wait for my autumnal return to BC. In any event, there were some interesting observations and insights on this rapid trip south which I would be remiss to not share (in no particular order).

  1. I am not a bat, but somehow the phrase “bat out of hell” kept coming to mind.
  2. Coconut donut is much more fun to say than to eat.
  3. There seems to be a surplus of white fluffy people in Oregon.
  4. Blythe, CA. Upon driving into this town there is an overwhelming smell of jasmine. Either it is a soap factory or there are actually things growing there. Once you get into the town of Blythe it no longer smells like that but there is a girl at the Burger Kink with a script tattoo on her neck which reads “La Blue eyes” - I think the first ‘e’ in eyes is lower case on purpose, but I decided it was too personal to ask.
  5. A traffic jam in Los Angeles moves 40km/hour faster than regular driving in Vancouver.
  6. I made it all the way to Los Angeles before I saw any patriotic billboards. There, I saw two. The first read “God Bless America”. Simple enough. The second read “Bless this land and it’s people – God” Does the cute factor work for anyone? Hmmm, me neither. It’s a good country but I don’t think God gives a shit about national borders – oh, man, I hope not. What happens if someone dies out of their country? Is there a form to fill out?

I think one of my favorite things to do is go on very long road trips. I know I have been a less than ideal companion on some of these trips, mostly attributed to sleep deprivation and SUV headlights in my rearview mirror. Regardless, there is an unquantifiable joy in tearing down the road pretending to be a trucker while singing “Harmony and me… we’re pretty good company…” knowing full well that if I got caught I would be required to sew my lips together.

Now, there are some other epiphanies that came to me that have me very concerned (aside from how badly smoking has damaged my otherwise heavenly singing voice). Let’s start with cell phones. Remember when we were in high school and on Saturdays we would get really stoned and go to that course called “Drivers Education”? Did your instructor ever indicate that holding a solid object to your head cutting out 50% of your peripheral vision discussing why your boss continues to be a prick might in some way cause a problem? Well, in case they didn’t, I’m here to say “THIS IS A DANGEROUS PRACTICE. STOP IT.” You have two choices which may be much safer for you and others. Choice 1: Pull over, finish your conversation and then get back on the road. You really wont loose that much time. Choice 2: Get a headset. I know they are terribly expensive (about $10 US), but they may just make you look smarter/powerful/savvy/modern. Also, a headset could help disguise some of your singing as intelligent conversation.
A convenient segue to choice #1 involves pulling over to talk on the phone. Back in the old days when people were on road trips they would drive for hours until the bladder was ready to explode then pull over into a rest stop and conduct a few pieces of business. Aside from stretching, purchasing cheese whiz crackers and bladder relief, we would also call ahead from a pay phone. Pay phones are quaint devices that allow people to punch in numbers and then talk into a clunky piece of plastic to people far away over thin copper wire. I hate to say it, but there are no longer pay phones at rest stops – at least none of the rest stops that I visited. I guess since everyone except for me has a cell phone there is no longer a need for this and I am just going to have to step up and join the modern age. It is amazing how cellular communications has made our lives so much more convenient. But I guess the whole thing is not quite ready to come out of the oven.

Back in the old days (the same era as the pay phones), motels used to employ a very sophisticated system consisting of two neon signs, electricity and a switch. One of the signs said “Vacancy” and was always on. The other sign, strategically placed above or before the first said “No” and was controlled by the switch inside the hotel. This was a very crude and ineffective way of informing travelers of the availability of rooms at said motel. If there were no rooms available, the motel clerk would use the switch to turn on the “No” sign to indicate there are No Vacancies. Thank goodness we no longer use this ridiculous method. Instead, now that we are able to send messages magically around the world or to the parking lot, the neon No sign has gone the way of the codpiece. In the new world this is how it works. Get off the highway, pull up to the motel, get our of your car, wake up the clerk at the motel, ask them if they have any vacancies. Repeat this process as many times as it takes to find a motel clerk who does not have a neon “No” sign glowing somewhere in their head. Good luck – start early.

After four hours of looking for a hotel I found a lovely resort right on the off ramp which will rent rooms and girls by the hour or for the full night. Stockton, CA – what a beautiful improvement we humans have made to this desperate plot of random land. Ok, maybe I’m a little over the top. I had been driving for 17.5 hours. It was 4am. I was tired. I had been through Weed in a snow storm. Weed, CA sucks at night in the snow while driving with no lines on the road. Jack and John should have never talked about it.

While we are on the subject of California…I believe I may have found a fantastic idea. In Vancouver there exists a dire and irreversible problem which will be cleverly concealed for the 2010 Olympics. You see, back when Vancouver BC was being designed the city planners started by rolling up a good batch of that famous BC bud, sitting down with a blank piece of paper and drawing creative lines all over. Then, they replicated these lines in asphalt and called them “roads”. Other than a few intersections, there is no such thing as a turning lane, hence, all drivers are committed to driving exclusively in the right hand lane for fear that someone in front of them will want to turn left, which would understandably ruin anyone’s day since they may miss the light. This creates a vermiform parade of drivers (yup, like that new word), clogging up the flow in right lanes all over the city. So what does this have to do with California?
Well, in the desert between Stockton and Los Angeles, including the oasis known as Buttonwillow outside Bakersfield, there is exactly the opposite phenomenon. Regardless of how slow you may like to drive, it is imperative that all drivers must stay in the left hand lane at all times. I believe this is to combat the possible problem that someone else may want to drive even slower than oneself. The only three reasons I can see for anyone getting in the right hand lane is to a) pass someone on the right, b) prevent someone from passing you on the right or c) you have some bizarre understanding of the phrase “Keep right except to pass”. [sort of like “Alternate Merge”, but that’s a east coast thing]
So here is my idea. Drivers from California should mate with drivers from Vancouver. This may produce offspring who will be willing drive in either lane. At first I was thrilled with my new solution. However, after a few hours staring at the ass of a big fat gas-guzzling SUV, I realized there may be a small problem. These genetically advanced pups may, in fact, have a penchant for driving in the middle of the highway. Ok, my idea sucks. Never mind. Next time I’m going through Idaho.

I’d love to share the rest of my thoughts that pooped into my head during my 28 hour drive, but I’ve promised to not write about that, so I will end this entry on this final comment. By the time I hit the 49th parallel, I had come up with a dozen reasons to be back in BC. By the time I made it to Oregon, the list had grown to 100. By the time I crossed the mountains north of LA my list of reasons why I want to return to Canada had grown to 1000. Granted, over 900 of them were duplicates, but I think they are still valid. Despite all the grief and guff I give and receive about the place, I miss you Canada. There is no doubt I will return and in the meantime, I thank you for the friends you provide, the beer you brew and sometimes useful lessons I learned there.

My next stop is a secret and if you see me I will adamantly declare myself a doppelganger and speak in a thick Austrian accent to prove it.

Yes – I meant to say Kink and I meant to say pooped. The rest are just spelling errors. Good night, Gracie.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

a rough day at the fishing hole

Did you know that the online dictionary lists “vermiform” as a synonym for “useless”? Is this some kind of joke played by a bunch of frustrated fishermen?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

last nights in BC

This blog has gotten off to a bit of a choppy start. Anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on with me will certainly find the first few entries somewhat manic. I suppose that is one of the prices for having a vivid imagination; my thoughts run a strange course sometimes. So as an attempt to reel this in so that it might be at least slightly understandable, I will try to explain what is going on.

It is one of my last nights in Vancouver, BC. I came here nearly three years ago as a work transfer from my long-time home of Brooklyn, NY. My little cedar cabin in the woods is now empty. The toys, props and other sundries of my home turned to boxes and have been carted away. All that remains are my plants, an overwhelming number of unopened envelopes and expired checks, and those items that will be my principle personal effects for who knows how long. The envelopes I’ll open and burn. The checks, I’ll try to get re-issued. My personal effects will need some serious adjustment since I was completely pie-eyed when I packed that part of the house (Steve helped – thanks, Steve). My plants, each will be given to a friend with specific intent, no instructions and a deepness of love they may never realize I have for them (both the plants and the friends - there are brown leaves on both, I guess).

The city I leave without much fuss. Vancouver is a very beautiful city. The standard of living is excellent. The people are very friendly. Some of them have driver’s licenses. None of them can drive. They savor this frustrating combination by driving extra slow.
My Mini and I look forward to that last pokey drive down Granville before we hit the highway for a 1600 mile trip to the southwest U.S., the beginning of a trip I originally planned back in July 2003.

I was supposed to get fired. I was supposed to spend a few months camping in the southwest, then head down the coast through Central and South America, then over to India, up to Nepal, Tibet, maybe Mongolia and then across towards Europe and back home to NYC. I didn’t get fired. I never made it to any of those places. However, I never abandoned the plan over those three years. I simply put it on hold. A month ago, I guess I hit that pause button and put things back into motion.

For several reasons I have decided to do this adventure a little out of order and probably in segments. While I could go south, I think heading to Southeast Asia would be a better training ground for me. It is inexpensive and very different than anything I have ever experienced. A brief stay in Arizona to get some logistics taken care of precedes my departure for Bangkok in April. I plan to travel in Southeast Asia until August and then return to North America. After that, I am heading north back into BC for some camping and visits. From there my plans get a little foggy. If the money is still holding out, which it should, I will head down the west coast through Central and South America, diverting over to Argentina and then possibly all the way to the southern tip.

So the big question: Why am I doing this? My whole life I have dreamed of being a writer. In some ways I have achieved this and in other ways I have only dreamed.
About five years ago I had a conversation that may have been one of the most life changing exchanges I’ve ever had. It really wasn’t much of a big deal, but sometimes a message shows up and it has a tremendous impact. On this particular occasion, an artist friend who I had met only a few times interrupted me as I droned on about some work-related drivel I was spewing. She looked at me with her very dark, stern and piercing eyes and said, “You know, everything you say seems to conflict with your nature.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, you go on and on about computers and work and corporate issues,” she spoke with an almost clinical tone. “But, you’re an artist at heart. It may be fine for now to do what you are doing, but someday you are going to wake up very old and find that you have run out of time.”
Her words sank in so deep, so quickly that I don’t think I will ever be able to forget them.

Now, I embark on making sure that if I do ever wake up very old and out of time I will at least be able to say that I tried. I’m not sure what will become of this. Perhaps it will be no more than a really long holiday. Ideally, it will be the start of something more. Or maybe it will just be some mediocre notes from another frustrated idiot trying to find what has been right there in front of him all along.