Go: What it is.
This is not a standard blog, more of a memoir of my experiences after Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 and the life I lived and road trip I undertook thereafter. I am not sure “Blog” is the right term. The writing was done in a freethought “Kerouac” style; I was reading Kerouac and Tolstoy at the time. I had lived in New Orleans from 2003-2005 working on a Master’s of Science in Geology at the University of New Orleans. We had returned to New Orleans for the next semester, we had been in classes for about a week, and then Katrina hit.
We were allowed to officially return to New Orleans in January of 2006, approximately six months later, this is what happened to me over those six months.
(This was originally written in a piecemeal fashion as I would get to school in the morning and try to write down my memories of this escapade, a chapter at a time, for an hour or two, before preparing to head off to class or to teach).
So Kerouac in mind, and time constrains of writing and memory loss, please forgive all spelling, capitalization, grammar, or complete lack thereof. I have tried to keep everything as it was originally written, but it is ten years later and I have made some edits for Hiker Bible, as this is now a public(er?) post and I am aware some folk prefer their anonymity. Names are nicknames of friends and family and some parts may be redacted as per my personal preference. Remember, everyone is the hero in their own story, especially if they are 25.
(Comments in parenthesis are me, 10 years later, laughing at myself and the culture I adopted. And in some cases me adding a more clear explanation of the situation.)
Get to know me and my family and enjoy a very interesting half-year of my life.
Went to bed friday night drunk as usual and expecting to go to 2, yes 2, keggers on saturday. one was an yard sale/booze bout and the other was a maryland style crab boil/going away party for roger. maryland style, cuz they do blue crabs a little differently up there than down in new orleans. Instead woke up to a call from rbomb “what are you gonna do, are you gonna evacuate?” All i could say was, “what the fuck?,” the storm was heading to Florida. Nope, right for us. so we got things together 3 shirts 2 shorts flops sneakers, cat, and went to roger’s party. (What else do you do?, go to a party before you have to evacuate from a hurricane. Life’s a party, right?) all 4 of us that showed up. most were worried about the storm. we got a buzz and then started finding people to evac. (We did a phone tree of all friends we could think of and or get ahold of, made sure everyone had a place to go, and made sure if not they were coming with us) we hit the road at 7 and it took us no extra time to get to the farm, 5 hours to the north. cool, should be another Ivan.
Ivan: hurricane of 04 where 10 people evacuated to this very farm and proceeded to drink and party themselves into oblivion for four days straight. Well we drank and played pool and drank and played kickball and swam and rode on combines (as passengers) and drank. and by monday night we thought we were in the clear the storm had passed and most of the damage was to Biloxi and Waveland,
Mississippi and New Orleans (NO) was alright… (though friends and family in MS were more than devastated) still drinking at 2 am monday someone heard a report of a nurse in the city (New Orleans) calling cnn and saying the water was rising. oh shit now we’re fucked. turns out the levees had failed. not from the storm but from the surge and poor engineering and cutbacks in the past. (Insert your own knowledge of this, via news, reports, studies, and or documentaries.) so with no knowledge of when we could get back into the city and things looking worse and worse the party dispersed.
People went to Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Massachusetts, and other locations, I personally gave kids rides to columbus, Ohio and Mobile, Alabama. (In fact, I had taken two kids to Columbus, in my little 93 ford ranger; I had returned to the farm in northern LA late at night, and the next morning jumped in my truck and took a girl to Mobile, where her father was working construction that soon after the disaster. I had to take her right away as her father was a laborer who might be moving readily). when we were finally done everyone had left the farm but me. i had taken the offer of a job. hey it paid almost twice as much as teaching and it was useless for me to keep attending another school as I was done with classes and I needed to simply write my thesis. (Everything I needed was literally in my office at UNO, we thought it was going to be another Ivan…) so there i was, essentially a city boy, working on a farm in northern louisiana…
Big Farmin, Yo city boy on the farm, in northern LA… Forest, LA, to be exact, but also including the towns of pPioneer, Oak Grove, Delhi, well you get the point you really could consider them all the same if they weren’t four to six miles apart each and didn’t have their own postal codes. The easiest way to locate it would be to say i was in monroe, but that is a 45-60 min drive… so life on the farm is nothing like what anyone who hasn’t done it thinks. the pay is good, but the hours are rough. in the fields by 7-8am and not home until the same pm and later if the work has to get done sooner than later. this usually isn’t the case as there is always something to do on the farm so the work never stops and well at the end of a long day you can just say it’s time to stop cuz the work will be there tomorrow. (This was a young city boys take on things, now I am much less convinced of this. Please do not take offense if you know better, as I do now.)
The family was basically this (This is not my direct blood family, I was adopted by my friends family for the sake of the situation. I still try to visit them whenever I can) – mom, dad, me, brother, sister-in-law, and the midget. (I call friends and families kids, “midgets.” Feel free to take offense.) now the family could be described further like mom’s cousins husband who drives the module truck and helps on the farm occasionally, well most of the local folks as they are in some way or another moms kin.
But let’s leave it at this. there is a great support network of good folks up there and one would be short changed to find a more friendly locale to randomly walk into and start working. (The regional community all knew each other via familial, work, friend, bar, relations and all took care of each other.) as far as working in the fields goes, the only issue really is rain, things get gummed up in the mud so a good rain usually means a day or two off. now i did not get to do any of the real fun jobs like laying down or picking up poly pipe, but i got a good cross section of what goes on during the picking season at least. for the most part i was driving tractors and disking the fields. turning the soil over and putting organics back into the ground. not an incredibly hard job, monotonous, and when you have a couple thousand acres to play with, very monotonous.
but i got to listen to a lot of NPR and classical music. (To this day I still prefer not to listen to top 40 stations, no matter the genre.) the rest of the time was spent picking cotton. for this i only got to drive the (cotton) picker for a couple rounds but that is a hell of a machine to master and be able to drive competently, i did not do this. i did master, i think, working on the module builder. this was a large metal contraption the size of a small big rig trailer. the top of it is open so that the pickers can dump a load of cotton into it when they are full. there is also a large hydraulic press that moves over the top to pack the cotton down. what i got to do was stick my hand into the business end of a cotton picker; kind of like pulling a license plate out of a knocked out shark, if it wakes up or turns on your arm is in trouble, “mangler” trouble for the horror buffs, and pull out the crap that built up, excess cotton mixed with machine grease, throw that aside and then rush to get the cotton packed down before the pickers came back to dump again.
after all this i even got to row up a set of fields, that was rough. i had a gps to show me the path and the rows were still fubar, guess my steering skills need some more work. with all the work there was time to play. if it rained we could go to the hunting camp and try to get a pig or deer with the bow and arrows. i also got to go spend a day at a logging camp with dad’s nephew. that was impressive. the machinery they used was amazing the cutter could take down 10 6-8 in diameter trees in 5 minutes. and a 4 ft diameter tree in the same time. and the loader was just as badass. grabbing whole trees and slinging them around like tooth picks. chopping them into 10-12-14 foot lengths and slapping them on the trucks. there are some pictures of me sitting on the loader floating around.
Overall what i describe may seem stressful (“It’s just a matter of opinion.” ~L. Claypool) but overall i would have to say this was one for the most relaxing periods of my life. i had very little to worry about x-cept the location and wellbeing of friends and family. bills taken care of, drama not a part of my life. no school, work, papers to read and write, just work and sleep, thats about all i did, and listen to NPR and prairie home companion. good, but toward the end i started to get stir crazy, missed the city and old friends and well needed to get out. i had gone a couple times to see NO and what was left of people’s homes that is another story i dont think ill write down here. but it also showed me i was not quite ready for settling on the farm life. Antsy, and as i said the picking was done, fields were turned, it was time to move on.
So i headed up to kansas where juan and julia had moved, along with the death family and many others from uno. i stayed with them for a week and it was cool cuz juan and i picked up where we had been before the storms. from there i went to CT and stayed with my parents for 5-6 weeks. it was nice, as ive gotten older they show this and now treat me as an adult, “oh we got a minute lets go grab a beer.” one weekend i went to vermont to my mothers bass players farm and got to mellow in the woods of vermont listening to 5-10 blue-grassers jam out all day long. we went to the local swimming hole and cooled off, it was a great time. i also got myself set up to use the library at Yale and re-research some papers i had left in NO.
More good people wanting to help out the hurricane victims. i spent weekends in boston with ross where we would go pubbing and he showed me around cambridge. one weekend he came down and stayed with me and my folks and we went to the harvard-yale football game. that was great, spent the first half in the tailgates mooching beers and grub. i had a flask of laphroaig so i wasn’t cold. then for the second half we sat in a yale alum section and pissed everyone off. ross by cheering for harvard, and myself by cheering for georgia field hockey and caltech badminton. after triple overtime harvard came out the winner and ross and i charged the field cheering the team and forcing ourselves in front of cameras.
For thanksgiving my folks had planned to be taking a car down to Waveland Mississippi to a woman who needed one to get to work. since i was in the area and had been invited to go to Debuc Iowa i convinced them to come along and visit Dr. E, a former UNO prof, who they had met the previous thanksgiving, in NOLA, and then go to MS. they said cool, then the lady donating the car messed up so we just went to dubuc. that was a phenomenal time. Dr. E and his wife and their two girls were shining and happy as always. juan and julia had brought their kids. skyman showed up with his girlfriend, and jack had popped up with his fiance.
It was great seeing new and old faces and sharing food and beer. (recurring theme) i still think Dr. E and his wife were amazed at the amount of beer juan and i put away but that was half the fun. the last weekend i was in CT i went up to boston and ross and i went to the black rose “roisin dub” a classic well known irish pub. great food and music. the odd part was the lead singer of the band looked just like my dad. it was eerie, and then it got worse. at 10 the restaurant takes the tables of the eating area and rearranges them to a pub style seating where they are all in a line and we wind up sitting across from another guy who looks just like my dad. of course my dad is much cooler, as this guy was a devout republican and looks like dick cheney in profile.
The next night i met up with dobhran in north hampton and spent the night out with him. got sushi for the first time in like 3 months, it was new england, so foreign stuff aint great but hell it was still good after 3 months. we first tried to go to a music spot called the iron horse. dobhran knew the producer of the group who was playing, of course we couldn’t find the producer guy, didnt want to pay the $15 cover and well to tell you the truth the music we heard was shit. “experimental folk” now most know i am not one to judge music, but these folks need a mental makeover. (so judgmental) so from there we went to a bar where the top floor is pool tables. tables were all full, and the meat heads were restless. so then we went to dobhran’s local hang out “divas” got to meet most of dobhran’s friends up there, sean, trainwreck, and others. good time got to play pool and kick it with dobhran who i hadn’t seen since the 2nd week at the farm.
From here the road trip around the country starts. i went to CT packed up and hit the road a couple days later on dec 6. The First 4 Days i said it repeatedly, but there just was not enough time and i was trying to get a piece of everyone on this trip. so my first stop was in NYC. now most might say wow, did you stay a week but i only stayed and hour and a half…it sucks but when you’re trying to get miles under your belt and your friend only has a lunch hour, you do what you can. made plans with shana for lunch, had my people call her people and we made a date to meet up in manhattan. it was brief but good to see her again.
Luckily i had gotten to see her the previous july, but it was still worth it to stop by. we hit up this little greasy spoon by her work i had to try the rueben and we caught up and swapped stories. life, love, work, stress, and the classic oxy (I had graduated from Occidental College a couple of years prior, any reference to oxy is to Occidental.) alum stories. it was great, “have you heard about so and so? no. well…” people have gone so far and done so much it is amazing. marriages jobs travel its great i love to hear it. from there i shuffled on to ohio or indiana where i found a rest stop and got a quick 6-7 hours stretched out in Byessie (My old ford ranger was a beast of a russian babushka, no matter how you beat her, she would carry that tree across the farm).
The next night i was trying to make my way into kansas but the weather or nature or some angry god didn’t want me there. it was blowing and snowing, and mostly in kansas. i was worried they might shut down the 70 like they had a few weeks earlier. the roads were slick, slush and ice, and i hadn’t driven in that shit for like 6 years. not to mention i was not prepared for it. now i had chains but they weren’t good for this stuff. i toiled on doin’ 35 in a 70 with big rigs shooting by me making the visibility 0 for 30 seconds after they pass but you do what you gotta do when at every bridge or over pass your back end starts swerving shakin and slidin like a bull trying to get out from under you.
Made it to manhattan, i know i ate lunch there, but this is the little apple, manhattan KS, now the driving wasn’t too bad here i love slow city driving in the shitty snow, it is like a constant controlled skid. stayed with juan and julia again. if you can’t tell yet these folks are one of my many extended families. it was quick but a good time none the less, right back into hangin with juan and julia, drinkin’, cussing, watchin’ movies, and listening to (too much) good music. got uno folks together like i usually try to do when i visit up there, got to hang and talk with the KS uno crew the death family and el jefe and tara and joe and bertha and mone.
It was good to hang with juan julia and the kids but this time i felt like there was more of the family connection playing with the girls and trying to help out as much as i could. the girls realy are like neices to me, juan is my ball bag handler, and of course julia is “mama.” it was good to see these folks had moved on and were making their own new friends and extended families but that is expected with these two. they will go far and anyone who knows them, knows that too. from here i jumped north to vermillion south dakota.
Too Much Love, Not Enough Man
if you know Mr. Gus you know the subject does not do him justice. i had not seen gus in somthing like 6 years since he went to sweden for his masters and shit. this guy is the shit, and working on a PhD in get this “neuroendocrinology” now most might say what the fuck is that? but this is the guy that is going to someday be able to tell us what chemcials in our brians cause us to react the way we do to different stimuli, fright or flight kind of stuff. (I am pretty sure he has told me I was a little too rambunctious in this description, I still love it.) but this is just a piece of the man. and if he had it to go around he would give everyone he knows and most of those he doesn’t two pieces of himself. i spent four days or so with the guy and well it was again just like we were back at oxy or in humboldt in the days of yore.
But i get ahead of myself. the drive north was beautiful. one of many beautiful drives i will be describing, but notable. gentle rolling hills covered in 1′ tall cut corn stalks and picked bean fields. (Imagine the top of pin head’s head from hellraiser, but rolling fields.) a light golden brown spackled with dull gray from the afternoon clouds. this mixed in with a patchwork of steel gray trees glowing at times from the sinking sun. kind of makes you want to drive from manhattan to vermillion. i’d do it again. pulled up to the trailer, yes a nice old double wide, around 7 pm should have been 630 but i went to the wrong trailerpark on the other side of town. getting cool but not too bad. now im a woos when it comes to cold so the 30-45 degree temps were enough for me,
and i did complain about it. but the thing with that is, every one there laughed at me saying those temps werent shit for early december, we were in a heat wave. and they were insistent, i brought the warm with me of course.
Now Gus as always surrounds himself with good people. the first i ran into was a man by the name of calvin. a hunter at heart and in action, the two had spent the day hunting pheasant walking through 3ft snow drifts and had tired out calvin’s dog sierra. this guy has a set up. i thought i had it good goin’ to AK (Alaska), his research is in isotope transfer to the fowls. so he gets to go hunting and collect pheasants to do his research. ha. if you eat the bird you know why i say this is a money deal. good guy funny hope we run into each other again back to Gus‘s work, the whole brain thing. he actually works on trout brains and puts them under stressful conditions and then chops up their brains and studies the chemical amounts therein. with this in mind i got to go to the facility where he houses and does the experiments on the fish. it was actually a sturgeon hatchery for the big muddy. the dams on the river prevent the sturgeon from heading upstream to spawn and the wildlife and game/fishery folk are trying to fix that. goddam it was impressive to see these 4-5 foot long fish swimming so close to you. you just wanted to dive in take a bite.
The next guy i meet is betelgeuse. my first introduction to betelgeuse is gus talking to betelgeuse’s girlfriend lidia over the phone.”hey is betelgeuse there?, he’s here, but he’s asleep under the kitchen table. why is he there? i made him sleep there, when he gets this drunk he pisses the bed and im not letting him sleep in my fuckin bed and our roommate won’t let him sleep on his couch! how did he get that drunk? he had a goddam party for the intramural soccer team and goddamit i dont need this shit, im fucking 35 years old and come home to 18 year old girls getting shit faced in my house, i don’t need this shit, not in my house, i don’t need this shit!!” (poor lydia, but college parties are college parties) and betelgeuse did piss himself under the kitchen table, he showed up the next morning after cleaning up.
Another good guy to know very funny. i actually got to be the first official guest on the gus and betelgeuse show. (their weekly radio show) it was great, played some classic music, pumped my parents band in SD (they were in CT, now arvada, CO, Rosin the Bow, look them up on facebook , they should have some songs on youtube soon, mom did always say there is no shame in shameless self-promotion) the guys are supposed to be giving some of their cds out. i also got to pump the fact that the situation in NO and the gulf is not over and that the folks down here still need donations, but not ratty old clothes. it was awesome. you can listen to them too.
They are on thursdays from 6-8 CST, just click on THIS LINKto listen now (defunct after 08). Now gusto has found himself a little lass too, keeley is a sweety and seems to have just as big a heart as the man im talkin about. and she has good taste in music too, she has alot of the same cds that i do. and if you’ve seen i have a random selection in that realm. easy to talk to with a sharp wit and she enjoys driving around looking at and making fun of peoples overdone yards of yuletide cheer. and to boot she prefers yuletide beer like most folks i know to close out this was a fun time with good people all around again another warm home to rest your head on your travels. if you push you can even go down to the big muddy and shoot off a couple clips of a 9mil. another thing i learned here was you can get margaritas made from wine and they actually taste pretty much like real margaritas.
NORCAL!?!, its more like BORCAL!!
So I’m planning on leavin SD and the weather has been agreeable so far, remember SD agreeable not my idea of agreeable. Any way Gus has gotta work and I’m looking at a long haul to Sacramento, CA, so we wake our asses up at 530am, well Gus did, I slept in till 630 and skipped a shower, we went out for some eggs and bakey. Good stuff too local diner he and betelguese hit up. We said our good byes, and from here its time to hit the road, sept it has started to snow and I’m planning to drive across SD and into Salt lake, needless to say I took the southern route through Nebraska, and then across Wyoming and then over the hills of the Rockies.
Now that was a drive, getting down to Nebraska was fun doing 40-50mph on small 2 lane highways in dusty light snow that makes it a bitch to see other cars and the ice on the road, not to mention the drifts that were half on the road and half not and the annoying Mack trucks. This sounds worse than it was I was only delayed an hour or two for this crap and once I got to Nebraska it was mostly smooth sailing. The foot hills in the after noon were sweet, the whole amber waves of grain thing comes to mind, but cooler (literally) and not so amber, more white and snowy, but the foothills did look like waves. Maybe that was a bad analogy. That night as I cruised up and over the Rockies toward salt lake the hills were alive with the sound of music, the punk I was blasting in the truck, but they were glowing white and gray. As the moon lit them up, the gray of the cloud
shadows rolled over them and they looked alive like the ocean can in the right light.
Coming out of the Rockies, or through them into salt lake was just as impressive except you can see the massive size of the mountains and the deep valleys thousands of years of glaciers have carved out. Both distinctly sticking out like the stripes of a zebra. Got to salt lake around 1230am, hit the sack, up and on the road again by 8 am. Pretty neat driving out of the city, you could see where cars had gone off the road as their tracks were imprinted in the mud it seemed almost permanently. Except for the messages passengers waiting for their tow had left written in rocks, the newer ones had car tracks the old ones didn’t. Leaving the Rockies was just as fun the snow disappeared, but the ice and moisture on the roads didn’t. Trying to move with traffic and not slip off the roads exciting, and getting back into the mind of city driving while in wet icy shit is not
something I want to do again.
So I make it to Sacramento, CA. This is where it gets really boring, I think? So I get into the city and miss my exit, but this actually becomes helpful later. I make it to the home of Dawson and his lovely new wife, Pacey. A happy little couple expecting a lovely little boy in a few months. Little did they know I still had a bit of Katrina in my blood. Our buddy Kreig had come up from the bay where he was temporarily staying for a bit, to join in the fun of my visit. When I pulled up the boys were already a bit in the hole, it was 630p and they had been drinking since 430p. I’m exhausted after driving something like 1700 miles in 36 hours all by my lonesome. That aside we mellow I have a couple we get reacquainted. Pacey made us some burritos which were quite nice and hit the spot. Then we started to watch some TV, this was not doin it for the group so we started talking about going out here there, titty bar, local bar…after plenty of bitchin and lazing around
we decide to just go to the nearby bar and have a few. This is where things get a little hazy.
I know we had at least 3 drinks of our own accord, I was on the vodka tonic trip, then Dawson decides it’s a good idea to do some shots. So we have a couple red headed step children, they are easy to beat and slam down. The catch was that this chick behind the bar aint just pouring shots, she is pouring the equivalent to mixed drinks and pawning them off as shots, and we were eating it up, and pounding them down. This is where things are fuzzy and we seem to have pieced this much together. Toward the end of the night as were getting ready to leave the bar, I hit a moment where I could not find the guys so I go for a walk down the street.
They were in the can or smoking or something, then they come and pick me up in a cab we were to take home. kreig tries to tell the cabbie a joke but chose one that was too long or just couldn’t get it out before the end of the ride. Dawson decides to worship the porcelain god, but without the idol, he just lets loose in the front yard. We get into the house and Dawson sets up the blow up bed for me or Kreig whichever was gonna crash there and proceeds to lay down on it for a while, who are we kidding he passed out for a bit. Later in the evening I make my way into the john for a piss and, well, I guess I fell into the tub and shattered the porcelain soap tray in the tub.
Don’t know if it was my back or head or what but the tray was shattered and the soap that was there was smeared out like it had been run over by a steamroller. So from there Pacey or Dawson or Kreig or me got me back to bed. So I made it to bed and stayed there. Although, there is a chance I pissed all over my duffle bag of clothes and stuff, I like to think the dog did it, the world may never know. (I do not recommend reunion benders in strange places, it can make for strange instances. Well benders can do that anyway. Someday, I may tell you about going on a bender in Athens, and the hill the acropolis is on, and walking around said hill trying to find your hostel.
That is certainly another story that does not belong in this already long story. But, be happy, you are a little more than half way through at this point.) Well I gotta say that is one of the best first impressions I have ever made. I still can’t emphasize how sorry I felt and feel and express the regret and tell you how much I have tried to pass this sentiment on to Dawson and Pacey. Unfortunately, the rest of the weekend was sort of affected by this first night. Everyone seemed a little unsettled and you probably could have cut the tension with a knife, I think we got over it; needless to say we didn’t drink the rest of the time I was in sactown. I bought a new soap dish and
grouted it into the wall. Kreig and I went out and bought some Christmas lights for the newly weds and kept them tied with the joneses, this is where having got lost the night before helped out, I knew part of the area. That was our Saturday, and Sunday was a half day, we had planned to sleep in, and then eat something. Kreig had left earlier and called warning of crap weather, and was right. The drive to San Fran was riddled with wet roads and poor visibility. But I made it no problem.
Big Bad Bay Brawl
Sunday evening rolling into San Francisco, that’s Saint Francis for those of you who aren’t in the know. Get in touch with drew and figure out where I need to go. “Get off at this exit and just stay on the road until you get toward downtown.” I tried and failed, in following directions again. Missed a turn or something and wound up getting off the highway gotta call and get new directions on surface streets. Not too bad got there in the same amount of time, it’s just that this is the third stop and the third time I missed a turn and went the wrong way. What the fuck, it’s still funny though.
So I get there, and it’s the usual and only welcome I could ever want. A big smile on drew’s face, some cold beers in the fridge, and some funny shit on the television. After the ass I just made of myself, this was good mellow no chance to fuck up. So drew, cat, his girlfriend, and I drank and talked and had fun into the night. Drew, wussed out early and had to crash around 12-1,
something about work at 5am for a meeting. cat and I still worked it till 2 or so talking and getting to know each other better and remembering the time she drew, and two of her friends from Philly came down to NOLA and fucked around with me there.
The next day was nutzo. Drew had got up for work early, but we tried to make plans to get together for lunch. So I got directions from him and cat, and tried to get there… this trip has been plagued by me fouling up directions. So I go out the house take a left and then a right like I was thinking I was supposed to. Looking for my cross street to get up to the main street where our ron-dez-vous point was. Walking and looking and walking some more. I start to get worried and call drew, phone don’t work. We call and text and try to get in touch, I keep walking. We call and one can hear the other but not say anything. So I walk like 10 blocks and then get wise and decide to head in the direction my cross street was supposed to go. There is the cross street I’m looking for running
parallel to what I was on.
I didn’t pick up something in the directions, obviously, got lost and started to walk in the other direction back the way I came to see if I could get the phone to work. Finally I get back into the downtown area I’m supposed to be in, I’ve gone past drew’s house the phone starts working and we can talk. “I’m a moron, let’s eat, sushi, great, I’ll be there in five, I’m still a few blocks away.” Great sushi though, and a pretty good lunch deal to boot. I really was wishing I had more money and time to spend on some gnarly SF sushi, but it was still good compared with the NOLA stuff we survive on down here. (HA, after living in El Paso, and getting to know some good NOLA sushi, NOLA is now one of my favs.
(“It’s just a matter of opinion.” ~L. Claypool) Then we head back to Drew’s work where he parades me around as the refugee friend and shows me where he does what he does. Seem like some nice folks who have no idea about the man they are working with, ha. We say peace and I get this idea to walk down to Haight St. and check out the scene. My morning walk seemed long, this was even longer and hillier. But it was cool as hell.
You see a different part of a city when you walk across it as opposed to driving or even riding a bike, things move more slowly and you can take it all in. It was a nice walk and I even recognized some areas I had driven through when I was here a couple years ago for new years. Walking down Haight was cool, all the odd folks and obvious tourists.
The little granola hippie fuckers walk by saying “ Mollie, trees” the punk rockers walking in unison in spiked leather uniforms with the unifying anti establishment Mohawk helmet. Good stuff, stopped in the goodwill looking for some records for Milly, then I headed over to Amoeba records. Oooooohh, that place is the shit. Any and every music you could think of in rows and racks, no matter how underground you thought something was they had it represented, and if not represented they had it there. I only bought a couple things and I think only spent an hour or so shuffling around, but I wish I had all day and all the money I needed to shuffle around in there.
From there I headed on down height and into golden gate park. So I had some time to kill and a gorgeous slightly warm sunny afternoon with a cool gentle breeze. Walked in past the hippy “commune,” I say commune but they were real hippies and wanna be’s and just homeless folk all doin the same thing I was after. So I found myself a nice spot in the park on a bench and mellowed. Read for a while and then started calling some kids down in LA to make plans for my time there. If you got the call you remember it, maybe. Talked with my grandmother and made plans to see her, made plans to get together with the rest of the family, and then the extended family of oxy folk too.
So the afternoon cooled down, I packed up my things and headed back, craving some real Mexican, not my favorite New Orleans mexican’t. (Of course there is always Juan’s Flying burrito, but that is an infusion joint, you must try it. Since the storm and the infusion of Mexican laborers, their wives and they themselves have opened some great Mexican joints. At the time my experience had been the best local where a tamale involved a covering of Prego sweet tomato sauce and a square of white Kraft single.
Yuck. Talked to Drew and we did it. I don’t remember the name of the spot, but they did it right. And I got my fix. But allow me to remember something. I got to help with some moving too, yes the burden of the truck, even if you are visiting, folks are gonna put you to work moving shit around. That night we bounced around saw drew’s new apartment, which he no longer lives in a couple months after the fact, and I got to meet a couple other folks from the life of drew. The next morn we were up early and I was on the road by 730 or so, we said our good byes and I was truckin’, literally, down to Los Angeles. I love this drive, the rolling hills of the grape vine. And well whenever I have made it, going north to south or south to north, there are great people waiting at the other end.
Too much Road, not enough Time
The first stop I made in the city was with family, blood family. Great warm greetings, too brief, too few of them experienced. Saw Grandma, cuz3, cuz3’s girlfriend, aunt, uncle, cuz1, cuz1’s wife. Folks I had wished I had spent more time with in the past while I had lived so close to them but too busy to make them a regular part of my life. Afraid to share my slightly vulgar self, only at this meeting, without my parents, to find out they are me, crass and well, fun to be around.
Next, onto Waylons. He and his roommate chuck, both working men who had been essentials back at oxy. First day, guys at work, I ran errands.
Had to put my rearview mirror backup, had knocked it off in the rush packing things in San Fran. Didn’t mention it earlier, but a minor mishap. Went to a couple of the local carnicerias for a Q, I had tried to organize for the night. Overkill, got 10 lbs of carne and 10 lbs of chicken. Get together with some of my friends I hadn’t seen in awhile together. Missile, someone I had not expected to run into, came over to see waylon. Wild, we shot the shit and shot some hoops certainly a mellow afternoon not expected nor to be forgotten.
A good night. Faces I hadn’t seen in a couple years. linda, tonka, pam, Pho, and a bunch of other kids I never really knew well in my oxy days. That’s my mistake, they were all pretty cool folk but I lived in my own world then. Hell, I still do. Again, life of the past was alive and kicking. Actually, it was revitalizing, being able to travel so far, then travel back and pick up as if it was a couple days not years. From Boston to Los Angeles a whirlwind of a trip bringing back memories and making some short new ones. I hope it was as fun and memorable for all that I got to see and hang with. One of the last nights I was at Waylon’s I fell asleep, with a bit of a buzz,
watching a movie/documentary of a 1977 Dead (Grateful Dead) concert in NYC.
Watching this was almost a revelation for me. This trip was for me what it could have been for someone watching the same Dead movie I was 20 years after they had been there. The love, reverie, the old memories, and well the new ones coming from fun or misplaced mishaps. I am glad I was able to make this trek and don’t think I could ever recreate it. I don’t think I would want to try to recreate this trip. The only thing I can do is take another one and hopefully it will come out as good.
Last morning, wake up at the ass crack of dawn. I know it was the ass crack, I smelt it, well that may have been me. Waylon and I met queso and pam at p and leezys. (Pat and Loraines’s breakfast and lunch in Eagle Rock. Check it out.) A good last meal in la la land. Try to eat there when and if I can which seems to be less and less over time. See the pic in my photos, the three guys and pam behind the camera. Drive off to Albuquerque to meet Milly for crimma (Christmas for the translation illiterate). A drive to be remembered.
An Oriental Christmas
Left LA soon after brekky, and followed waylon out of the city and state. After these couple hours he grew tired of the 73-75mph Byessie is happy running at and I waved him on with the possibility of meeting up again in Albuquerque. Never happened but that is road trippin. I said a memorable drive and yet this was the least memorable, oddly enough. I know it was memorable because I remember as I went through it noting how beautiful it was. The same amazing hills, plateaus, and buttes I have observed in the numerous trips east and west I have made across southern California and Arizona. Though, at this point I can’t remember it with the detail of previously described drives. I remember the emotion of it.
In the evening I arrived in Albuquerque to spend Christmas with one of the most interesting people one could ever wish to know. Ms. Milly. One who carries the conviction of a tyrannical king, and, the compassion of a Buddhist monk. Christmas morn we slept in, woke, exchanged gifts, and had a light breakfast. Then we spent the afternoon hiking around the San Dias Mountains. Interesting hunks of rock filled with granites, filled, composed of. Had some interesting large feldspar crystals, like close your fist and look at the front edge of your first knuckles crystals. I think she later told me were monazites. Of course we had to get off the beaten path to see better stuff than the shit folk had walked over for years. I couldn’t think of a better Christmas, not much
emphasis on gifts, and amazing mountains.
Half the fun of this trip was finding places to eat. Feeding a vegan and a carnivore at the same time during Christmas was almost a chore. Thankfully, the querque did have its share of un-American cuisine. i.e. Oriental and other worldly foods, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian to name a couple.
We made a trip to the natural history museum for shits and giggles; phbtfblttbtt-hee hee. This was the only downer of the trip. All of its info was 20 years out of date if not more. At least as far as my experience goes, seeing the same things in the Yale Peabody museum 20+ years ago. There was a major need for some grants and updating of information. The question of whether or not the Peabody needs updating, but that was resolved by a trip john and I had made the previous year, Yale doesn’t, querque does.
Though I’m sure in this post 9/11 era there is no need for such superfluous spending. From here I flitted up to Denver to visit my uncle, run into an old friend from high school and then meet Juan, crooked, and el jefe for new years in Breckinridge.
Denver Day Dreams
Actually, located in a suburb of Denver, my uncle, Aunt and my cousin live in a nice little area with a butt load, not as many as in the past, of dogs. Both prairie dogs, which are funky little things, and basset hounds, uncle and aunt used to show them, now they are mostly just pets, well, part of the family. Got to hang out with and share old memories with the family, had been almost 4 years since I had seen these folks, nice.
Now, I had mentioned how uncle and aunt used to show the bassets, uncle was also an avid salt water aquarium creator, or whatever you call the folks who are into this area of hobby making. He has gotten away from it, his aquariums have gotten less elaborate and contain less exotic biota, but there is no one better to go and checkout the aquarium with. It was a great afternoon, uncle really knows his salty stuff, I got to ask all the questions I wanted and have them answered as if by a marine biologist. Oddity on the news. A guy working landscaping in the area got his hand stuck on a tree and got sucked into one of those big industrial wood chippers. Freaky, though something that one wouldn’t necessarily expect to cross paths with.
Lost in Loveland
So, I had gotten in touch with an old friend, rygar, from high school I had not seen in like 3.5 years. rygar was in Loveland, about a half an hour north of where uncle lived. Was just thinking I would stop by hang out for a day or two, and then continue on my way. It turned out rygar had just broken up with his girl and was looking to get out of Colorado. Jump in, come back to NO there is plenty of construction work. Got up to Loveland and things were a little awkward with rygar and the folk in the house he was staying at. Turns out one of the dudes he lived with was in the bucket of the truck the aforementioned wood chipper was attached to. Weird, we could even drive by the spot and see the “brown” road and grass. Hung around town for a day or two as rygar finished what
business he had to, last couple days at work etc. An odd situation as he was leaving the girl he had moved there with and the tensions involved there in. Then back to Denver to meet juan and el jefe. Spent another night with uncle and aunt and then on to Breckinridge.
Beers, Cheers, New Years, Breckinridge
Ok, there is nothing funnier than 4 out of shape men throwing themselves down the side of a mountain on snowboards, and I will get there, but first. We have to get there. So we leave Denver and head to Colorado Springs where we pick up crooked. From there we head to the local REI to get him some gear. This was an adventure in of itself. We head out of the airport and cant find the REI, we pull into a mini-mall area and try to find someone who can help. The first guy we pull up to for directions is this bum that looks just like “Ron Perlman.” He gives us directions, but only to another mini mall, no REI.
Then we hit up another guy who looks just like “Ron Perlman,” again bad direction we hit up a minivan and get to the REI. Get our gear then we are on our way. Before we get to Breckinridge we stop at a private museum that juan had worked for the previous summer. I think he was digging up dinosaurs or some shit like that. (he was, I am a sarcastic little shit, huh?) Cool spot, some really excellent specimens of dinosaur bones.
Then we go to the ridge. First we got to get to the house. The roads recommend that you have 4wd. Neither, juan nor I had it on our vehicles, a big ol’ Yukon, and byessie the ford ranger. Anyway, the beast of a Yukon can make it up the hills, but after two attempts, only making it halfway
up the hill and then sliding down it, I have to get my ass out into the snow and slap on the chains, smooth sailing from there on out for me. Up the hill to the house, no worries. Of course, as the guys got into the house we find that the pipes had busted in a freeze the week before, but we could stay at a neighbor’s house around the corner. Cool. The bestpart, while crooked is talking with the landlord, juan comes up from the down stairs content with dropping a huge bomb, only to find out the pipes are busted and don’t use the downstairs toilet…surprise for the next visitors, ha ha.
Then we try to head over to the new house. I simply pull a k-turn, while feeling like I am about to go over the edge and down the side of the hill, where juan opts to go to the end of the road and turn there, too far, cant get up the hill after his backup, so we get out put cardboard whatever we can under the tires and push, and push, and push. It worked, but if you don’t know those big ass Yukon’s are heavy. Make it to the new house, awesome, twice as big as the original, and much newer. We get settled, and start the night with a few beers and some carne asada I brought along from
L.A. Yes, it actually lasted, but it was on its last leg when we got to it. (note I had to beg milly the stout vegan to let me keep it in her fridge.
I am pretty sure she bleached the ever living hell out of or threw out the fridge after, but was too nice to tell me.) Hit the spot, tomorrow we go boarding. So back to my original statement, “there is nothing funnier than…” We get to the top of one of the green dots and give it a try. We make it down at different speeds. I’m a little faster than the group as I have boarded a few times previous to this trip. The next fastest is el jefe, he barrels down the hill and then throws himself down to stop, it is hilarious to watch, and if you are stopped and he is catching up, you get sprayed. Then juan and crooked taking their time getting used to snow boards and not doing too bad as they were accomplished skaters.
Though, it was still painful with no instruction, luckily it was only half of a day. The next day we opt for half the day lessons, and half riding. We all improve with the lessons, and things get better, but not for crooked. The quick trip from sea level tropical Biloxi to the high mountains gave him a chest infection so he had to sit out for the rest of the boarding, but with out this change of fortune he may never have seen the jock from American pie at an oxygen bar.
New Years, we pregame a bit after spending some time on the hills, then head into town. Of course, we see a female version of “Ron Perlman” driving around town. (After all of these Ron sightings, we decided Ron is a god and we started “The Disciples of Ron Perlman.” A face book page where we share our devotion to Ron, and any updates this group of originals may have if we get together. Feel free to check it out and or join.) We look around at some bars and restaurants and finally find this one joint that is both, with some decent beers. We get ourselves on the waiting list and have a couple more beers. We get a table back in the corner of the upstairs eating area, and post it out for the rest of the evening. The waiter didn’t mind we were drinking good beers, and making him laugh.
At the toll of midnight I broke out the last of the absinthe I had and we toasted to the new year.
To sum up: plenty of booze, absinthe toast 12a.m. ‘05-‘06, sore bodies, more booze, Ron Perlman and his lookalike wife, cold hands, more booze, American Pie, chest infections and enough laughter for a lifetime.
And the saga continues..
What has happened since?
After we left the mountains, we put crooked on a plane home, juan drove his way back to Kansas via a longer route visiting others. rygar el jefe and I traveled back to Manhattan, Kansas ourselves, el jefe was home, but rygar and I continued on back to NOLA to try to rebuild. Obviously we did, we have moved on since those days. I am still in touch with many of the folk in this saga, unfortunately, I have lost touch with others.
Ten years later I have traveled much, Moved to El Paso, and now to Memphis, but Memphis will probably not by my final resting place. I have traveled to other parts of the world and undertaken numerous drives across and around other parts of the United States. I have even taken a road trip around mainland Greece, I will try to share other trips with Hiker Bible too. As I said, I have undertaken numerous road trips since this particular experience, though I must say none as epic or memorable. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed hearing as much as I enjoyed reliving. Safe travels.