Sneeky Bastards, Bikes, Broken, Birthday’s, Berkeley, & Hillsburough

The drink was a bit bitter. My intentions were grand! Here they were:

Find a vehicle in Philly (<$1000) and start driving west. Head to Ohio, meet Dan, head to Kansas, then down to Oklahoma, meet Megan, jet west, through beautiful high desert of New Mexico and drop into Tucson. See friends, ride moto bike, ditch new car in Tucson, skidaddle out to CA for Pancho’s birthday party, then up to San Francisco for departure to Geneva where vacation begins a new chapter of indifference. Perfect! right? maybe. Step two always requires step one to work.

Step one: I combed the clasified adds for trucks, bikes, and cars which seemed good for another 4,000 miles, that’s all I need. I found several, one was a plough truck – that would have been novel eh? A pannel van. A ’93 Toyota. A ’82 GMC customized catering truck. I made my choice, I contaced the owner of the GMC. I set up an appointment. I got on transportation and 3 hours and a mile walk later I arrived at the truck. Old, fresh paint, rusted floor boards, good tires, walk in fridge, broken ignition, good engine. Perfect! $1300. – given issues $1000. I made arrangements with the owner, discussed registration procedures and possible problems, created contingencies, and agreed to meet the next day in order to hand him cash and get title.

The next day I call the owner in the afternoon and establish I’ll arrive within 3 hours and after 2 hour drive out of Philly I arrive at the truck cash in hand excitment in my shoes and call the owner. Sold!

… to someone else. – Anger. RED ANGER! — Oh.. if I had no scruples…. I look around, the lot is quiet, no one arround, the van has no locks, no keyed ignition…it’s vunerable, my spite grows. I’m mad. Breathe.. revenge is never as sweet as it tastes.

I’m talking to him on the phone.. I can’t believe what I hear. I’m trying not to be rude, but calmly tell him how rude he has been. It’s difficult. I can do nothing but communicate my incredible astonisment and dissapointment in his decision. My enormous frustration. I urge him to make better decisions in the future and hang up. What else can you do? I walk away, rage in my pocket. My joy and faith in people crushed by one silly man. (he was french.. does that match any sterotyping? I don’t know.. I don’t care.). I’m depressed and we begin to drive back to the city. We stop at an REI and after a bit of a conversation with a 20 employee I remember the good in people and compassion in life. Alas I buy a plane ticket to end my east coast adventure the following day and begin to forget about ‘perfect plans’ and look forward to supprising friends for a Michael Franti show in Tucson and a casual drive to California.

I arrive at the Phildelphia Airport at 4 AM in an attempt to change my tickets to an ealrier flight. I’m struck with typical airline resistance and attempts to charge and inhibit me. I remember to breathe, communicate, and perhaps the little bit of karma I wish I had two days before arrives and without issue or cost I’m in Tucson 11 hours earlier than anticipated.

My ukulele keeps me company all the way along. Perhaps it’s close to being my adult Teddy-Bear. It’s good.

Back in Tucson I get to slow down again, refresh my bags, and reset my mind a bit. I get to share stories with familiar faces and feel updated. I drink hard and sleep well. I change my moto-bike’s oil and ride about. I prepare to leave again.

Continuing on to California is a bit more laborious than I anticipate. Kira accompanies me and make two attempts west California. Attempt one left Kira and I without radio coverage as the presidential debate began followed by a flat tire, Taco Bell dinner, and a slow-drive back into Tucson. The next morning we made our second attempt and successfully and arrived in Laguna Beach in the early afternoon on Friday and thus vacation restarted. Saturday we put ourselves into the car and drove north to Edwards AFB for Pancho’s birthday party, the big tee-dubyah-oh.

A choo-choo cake and some choo-choo cake eating with a choo-choo later Pancho was triumphant, the neighborhood kids were fed and properly sugared, a giant dump truck was unwraped and everyone was sufficently sacked out. Well done. Kira departed and then Andrew left back to Berkeley. Mom went to work and I was back in Laguna stuck to online political news and O’Riley. I needed to surf.

Jeff and I get out to San O’s. Surf is decent. Sky is overcast. 10 or so dropin’s later, including one heavy onboard chest landing, our arms are tired and our grins gigantic. The rest of the week seems to slip away until a brief surf session with Sam and Monica where Monica takes one to go into the books, skagg to the eye.. bloody… it was a short day.

Two days later we depart northward. Up to Rosamond to check on the hangar site and play a bit with a tractor. I gots to gets me ones of theses. Boo-yeah!

After Rosamond, I begin driving north and vacation starts for everyone else. Mom has my blackberry and I’ve got … what? … what? … My vacation has been going for about two months now, as you may have read, but Mom is electric with relaxation and she napps and talks and it’s clear this truely is a much anticipated vacation. 7PM puts us in Stockton for dinner and muppet show with Tripp and Karen followed by a serious game of Risk (a draw due to time). Just like the sentences, the following day comes quickly and we’re in Berkeley. I don’t think I’ve laughed with family this much for a while. It’s grand!

… Mom, Andrew & Angela left a couple of hours ago and left me at Angela’s place for the night. I’m now sitting in a coffee shop, surf n’ sip, in Hillsburough, a nice community south of San Francisco, listening to podcasts waiting for my flight tomorrow morning. – what’s next? no se. But tomorrow I’m off to Switzerland and France. I’ll be sure to note when I decide not to return.

Government Workers

Our Nation’s Capitol has some very interesting aspects. From people,
to policies, to racing motorcades, perhaps one of the most
substantially surprising encounters was with a governmental squirrel.
Clearly highly trained, these citizens dutifully wear their grey
government issue coats and patrol all grounds surrounding the capitol,
methodically and efficiently combing their perimeter for nuts, seeds,
and WMDs. In most cases, they tend to blend quite nicely. However,
exception struck me as I walked to Union Station from the Capitol
Initially the event was typical. I was generally apathetic to their
existence and they to mine, however moments later this grounds keeper
made a most unusual advance. No so much in direction, but in manner,
but before I could wrap my head around the incident he stopped,
examining some specious sector he had agency over. I stopped, most
likely adding to the stress of the situation, clearly building. But I
had rights, I deserved to know, this guys works for me just as much as
the next guy. Rigidly his ears perked, back stiffened, and fingers
quieted. My nose rumpled and my eyes squinted, defining as much
detail as possible, my feet wavered in my loose shoes as if trying to
stay upright on the sea. As the shakedown stare-out continued I could
see nothing peculiar about him, soft tail, light ears, attention to
detail. Moments later I was struck with fascination, more so than the
fascination of mystery, but the fascination of knowledge. Like a cat
this small grey lawn guard had substituted the all too familiar front
feet back feet exchange bound for the left side right side sneak
slink, a significantly stealth like approach which contributed to both
efficiency and field dominance. I was amazed. The squirrel moved on
to his next inspection point with the agile movement of a panther,
moving only his legs as the body snaked through the grass in a low
body crawl, and like that out of sight, probably into some high-tech
tunnel full of trainees from whom he served as mentor. The
complexities of our government’s programs is beyond me. What a
fascinating world.

Single Engine Diesel

A single engine diesel is all that moved the cars from Boston to D.C.
Seven cars in total.. but I didn’t really count, just guessed. Seven
is a good number for train cars and dice. Just one diesel though and
a cafe car, that’s where I chose to sit. There I’ve got power,
electric power, but also reign over my table. A four person table for
just me.. unless someone sits down of course. Here, in my domain, I
can sit with confidence, with pride. I make sure my table is clean.
I make sure my kingdom is happy, everyone smiles, and everyone laughs
at my jokes. Here all things are in order and from here I can observe
my neighbors, draw up treaties, wage war, elicit sanctions, in
general, rule with authority. I diverge.

My new domain is indicative that I’ve indeed left the greatest
smallest state of Rhode Island. The big RI was an interesting stop
along the way, a relaxing stop and certainly a homely stop. I was
greeted by my friend at the train station and promptly invited into
her family’s life. I wasn’t about to go out to parties and run the
town, this was a wake up in the morning and eat your breakfast kind of
household, a very pleasant place. There were four siamese cats, all
very friendly, a noisy bird, three stories, my own room, and lots of
trees outside, green trees, tall trees, and a garden with sweet cherry
tomatoes. There were about a dozen bird houses scattered about, atop
poles, hanging from branches, in trees, and even atop one tree, which
I found slightly remarkable. A small ravine dipped away from ground
level just fifteen meters away from the house, dark but not too deep
and a grand place to explore. Past the ravine was nothing, that I
could see, except more trees. I didn’t feel like I’d left Maine in
that respect.

As I boarded the train bound for Philadelphia I thought, “did I see
it? Did I just float through Rhode Island or did I get a feel for it,
it’s value, it’s place, it’s people, at least as much as I could.” I
agreed I had, as much as I could have experienced it all in the
several days I was there and in a sense of agreement you only get when
you’re sitting by yourself on a train typing a short letter to
yourself. I evaluated. I saw rain and sun, woods and beach, swam in
a ‘pond,’ sat in a sauna, body surfed in the ocean, floated down a
river, crawed in muck and sand, ate fresh foods and canned, went to
the mall, walked through New Port, ate clam chowder and a salmon
burger, and watched every second of it go by. We talked, I listened,
read, and laughed a lot. While I could check things like Providence,
New Port, and Crazy Burger off my list, as the train barreled through
the state and onto Connecticut, I was in effect content, ready to be
on my way, but happy to have stayed.

Thus, there I was back on the Train, where there existed an odd sense
of home. Not the same sense that I was leaving, not the sense that
someone is looking out for you and yours, but the sense of familiarity
and possessiveness with a twist of safety. The standoffishness of the
other passengers coupled with their sense of willing weakness to
interact, eager for a catalyst. A perpetual state of limbo, of
passenger replenishment, a world where you stand still and the windows
project everywhere you’re not. I suppose that’s the motive force of a
single engine diesel. What a remarkable device.

Destination Nowhere

Nowhere seemed to be the theme after I arrived in Boston.

Julia and Chris put me up for the night and then went off to sail in the morning. Their last day until school started. I began to walk.

I have never been to Boston. I wanted to know where they served tea, but I never asked. From MIT across the river to Fenway and its monster through the park and to downtown. Past china town and across another river. Into South Bay and to the water. Couldn’t find Sam Adams and his men, caught the bus back to MIT. Up into Cambridge and Dan called. Back to MIT. To the apartment, back up to Cambridge for lunch, across the river, picked up some ukes, into the park, down the street, Pour House for dinner and conversation with the waitress, back to MIT. Asleep.
Up in the morning, a walk about campus, and back to the apartment to gather our things, then over to South Station and on the bus to Portland. Goodbye for now Boston. Awake in Portland, Maine. Dr. Todd unlocks his car and we’re off for Wiscasset at midnight. Down into East Booth Bay, a right at Lukes Gulch (private rd) and another quarter mile the car shuts its lights off. A small dingy rests on the dock. We push it in and awkwardly slip in. The beam is three inches out of the water. The guessing game is moment from finality. Which is it? The schooner? That yawl? This thirteen foot sloop? There she sat, “Remedy”. A 35′ sloop all the way from Hong Kong some 40 years prior, a Cheoy Lee – though that builder still means very little to me. A brief tour ends at our birth in the forward cabin and morning come too quickly and too bright. I rectify this by closing my eyes and opening them an hour later. That’s better. This bay is beautifully clear, clean, wooded, calm. So this is Maine, eh?

After loading gear, running errands, fetching breakfast, and doing a cursory check of the rigging we’re underway for the day about the Bay, hooray.

A bit of a motor, the genoa (so called “jib”) is unfurrled, around lobster pots and islands through the harbor and back to the mooring. Bath time, we’re all in the water, then rapidly back out again. It looked delightfully warm, but had the taste of high school waterpolo hell week. You can’t help but laugh when you’re out lasted and out shivered by a 65 year old man. I have no towel. I brought Dan his and seemed to be dry afterward. Into Booth Bay Harbor for our farewell Lobster dinner. A walk and then back to the boat. Content. Asleep.

Dr. Todd, by request, becomes James, then Jim, then Captain Jim, then back to Jim.

Morning starts with a quick row ashore, use of the facilities, postcards in the mail, and on last once over. Off the mooring and out to sea. My attention t the chart is somewhat overwhelming for everyone. I cool it. Jim’s in charge.

Chicago – Albany – Boston

Chicago. No one is from this city, but everyone visits. Tourists everywhere, people everywhere, no one knows where to get a good meal. Even a hostess doesn’t hasn’t lived here, and she lives here. We stop at the library. There’s a wedding. We’d like to crash it, but the doorman is from here. He gives us a map. An intersection. A name. We walk. My legs feel great. Cooped up on the train is tough on the muscles. I had started a regiment of push-ups and pull-ups but nothing for the legs except a nip of scotch after dinner.

We find the bar, ____, it’s wonderful. Authentic german beer and food. Still no one is from here, nor does anyone eat the food, so its a blind order on beer and eats. Both are delicious. The bartender is swamped, would have hired me, but I have a train to catch. 10 PM we’re off to Albany. My Chicago walking buddy sits in a different car. I meet several ‘youths’ complaining about closed or broken toilets, slow and late trains, and their frustrations with the current administration of everybody and everything. I suggest they adhere to a strict pro-leisure tour curfew, but you can’t push a rope and you can’t quell the angst of a retiree.

Their complaints are mostly in jest and I get to laugh with them. They pass along some good advice, the first of many. After a nice bit of monologuing from my seat mate regarding cancer, love, life, fortune, and laughter, I exchange a goodnight with the stranger and struggle into an uncomfortable series of naps throughout the night. Breakfast leaves the seat next to me vacant so I catch a bit of wonderful rest. A good morning wakes me and sits me upright again and I excuse myself to the parlor car for the remainder of the ride.

Singin’ on The Train, and a New York Business Man.

He allows me to share his table. We converse. I listen. More advice. She draws my hat, I tell her about it. She listens. More advise. I listen. They share lunch and chocolate. I share the few remaining crumbs of Kiras ginger-zuchini bread, meager, but all I have. More from both parties. The conversation become a bit controversial, opinions appear. Silence. Lighter topics and then farewells.

The train had passed all of rural america which still exists. The Rio Grande, Antelope (or Gazelle something running along the tracks), Arkansas, Up-state New York. Great lakes and rivers, farm houses, towns without people and people without towns. Could have fished off the train there was so much water. All passed behind the tempered emergency exit beside our marked books and lunch scraps.

We’re in Albany. Change to the Boston Commuter. I write and read and watch a movie. The trees are big, dark, but not as handsome as some I’ve seen. We barrel along. The long ride is setting in. It’s dark, I eat a microwave pizza and have a can of ginger ale. My arms are ready. South Station. On the T. Off the T. At the Bar, one, two beers, two glasses of water for Chris and Julia. Asleep on their couch at last. Four days of sights and people and thoughts. I’ve arrived safely and soundly with much gained. Boston.

I Got Ahead of Myself

Let me back up a minute.

Where did I start…

Tucson: August 28th, 1 AM

Hotel Congress: Kira, Chad, and I gulp down the last of our drinks and walk across to the train station. I board, stow my gear, and promptly fall asleep. The G/T was stiff, the long island more so.

I’m the last car on the train and the last room on the car. No neighbors. My view is an obstructed 270. Back window and one on each side. We’re still in the desert when I wake. New Mexico I believe. Breakfast soon turns into lunch into dinner into Texas into two more days and San Antonio. I saw the Alamo by street light and enjoy a Lone Star at Alibi. Live music tonight. The train is still there when I get back. I put my self to bed and am rocked to sleep as my car is moved, shuffled, decoupled, shuffled, recoupled, moved, and departs the station. North.

Now my room is at the front, just ahead of the dining car. I see everyone come and go. Its lively.

Texas, again. Texarkana. Little Rock. Its green. St Louis. It’s really green. An arch, a stadium, neighbors move in. Neighbors move out. The people are fascinating. Crazy, kooky, bright, beaten, black and blue. Photographers and artists, fragile folks, at this point a lot of drawls and y’alls, I’s fits right in.

A carpenter and his wife join me for dinner. He’s been to Antarctica, Russia, Cuba, China, and Tennessee. He works with the US Embassy.

A nurse/text book writer and her husband computer engineer/photographer keep me company for several meals. Puns more than I expected. I’m engaged, enthusiastic, enthralled with their company. They’re happy!

Chicago arrives. Everyone off. I’m first class. So is she. So are they. Sleepers, it only costs about $500 to get free crackers and juice and someone to watch your things for an hour.

The Philly Coast, NJ, NY, PA (+ Dallas and Chicago)

Didn’t really sleep the night before, too many things on ye olde mind. Finally getting some shut eye by 4:30 AM, the alarm cracked me awake at 5:45 AM. Megan knocked on the door the very next second and before I knew it I was walking across the tarmac and seat belting myself into the tiny jet plane headed for Houston, then onto Philly.

Philly, as far as I know is this mystical place. So mystical that I wasn’t really sure where it was, or at least had zero scope regarding the area it was in. This was the place our founding fathers signed documents, declared freedoms, and, as Chris noted, probably urinated in bushes outside their local pub. A glorious place indeed. But I had no idea that it was a hop away from New Jersey and a jump to New York and this new set of information, this new idea of proximity was amazing to me. It still kind of makes me uncomfortable, after all, it’s suppose to take you all day to drive the length of your state, or at least four hours to get out of it. Apparently the East Coast is excepted from this rule. Once I acclimated to that, the rest of the weekend was a breeze.. well sort of.

First stop into Philly was Chris’ place. His house is nestled in between two others, as all things that are nestled are, over on 17th where it sported a fancy front door with windows and nice solid hardwood floors, an opera singing neighbor, an old woman with a cute granddaughter neighbor, and some other regular type people about. The house was a pleasant and impressive three stories, I wish there were four because then we’d have been on the roof, but three would do just nicely and it did. All other Philly activities were similarly straightforward and simply enjoyable… to the fullest extent of the phrase.

I saw Chris’ TFA headquarters, we ate cheese steaks, ‘wizz-wit’, saw Jen, parked in the middle of the street, rode on the back of a moving truck, took subways across town and into New York, and drove to Atlantic City. The last two being of great importance. First, New York.

New York.

It was a first time for John being in the ‘Big Apple’ in the ‘Melting Pot’ the ‘City’… or what ever other name I could make up for it right now. Anyway, first time, so simply being there was neat, to say it in one word. New York is a city of substance. It’s still fake, like LA or Phoenix, or San Diego, or … I don’t know… but it’s got some substance to it underneath all the flashing lights, billboards, and photo opps. It’s neat to know that it was America’s port year’s ago, it was where American culture was, is, would always be (though now we know where it really is..) It was built on top of the poor by the rich and never seemed to stop. It is a mammoth of a city and every turn has a tale. It was neat. Cousin Mike gracious picked us up from Penn Station and drove us about the city for the morning, periodically allowing me to jump out of the car and gawk. We then met up with Jenette and had some lunch, after which we, Chris, Mike, and I, went for a walk from Times Square back to his place on 36th. It was a hike, but worth every step. The night emptied into tai food and beer and darts and then Mike left Chris and I to our devices, or vices. We walked up the street to the next bar, which so happened to be entertaining with Karaoke, we ordered scotch, three ice cubes, and enjoyed the music.

Once our feet were back outside walking down the street it was clear what the mission was: drink scotch at every bar we pass along the way until we can’t drink scotch no more. And so it was done. At bar number six there was a connect four game and Chris challenged the bar tender, rendering her with out a shirt (well, really she just flashed the bar, but who’s keeping track) as well as winning a couple of drinks for us and then it was over for me. I vaguely remember putting some of what I had drank away in the restroom and then doing a fair amount of stumbling, shouting, smashing, running, dancing, jumping, and the like. Chris and I fell asleep in the vacant apartment three floors down from Mike’s place on the wood floors, I’m sure glad they had a working toilet. Pancakes in the morning when we finally made it up the last three levels and then back on the train to Philly. It was quite the first day in New York, I think I covered my bases.

Atlantic City.

This is a much easier thing to relate. Two hours there by car. Twelve hours later I’m up $350, Chris is up $3,000. We eat a free steak dinner and drink free blue martini’s and we’re back in Philly with half an hour to spare before we need to catch my 5:30 AM flight back to Tucson. It was quite the first day in Atlantic City, I think I covered my bases.

I ended up opting for a later flight out of philly and made another two hundred bucks, sat and watched a philly sunrise over the airport, as the planes yawned away and made it to a seat aboard flight something or another just in time to catch my body into a relaxed bit of sleep.

Back in Tucson I had one day to get everything I needed ready for classes, Paul moving in, and our ten days of sailing in California. So when Jon said he’d pick me up, it was clear there was no doubt that I would love to go rock climbing with him and Austin for the afternoon. What did I have to do instead?

(apologies for the poor narrative – it’s late and such is writing when it’s stream of conscientiousness)

Departure from the Carolinas

On the flight back to Orange County, leaving behind family in more than one way.

We left a bundle of new found relatives, folks from Jamesville, North Carolina and the surrounding burbs, to get back to their daily routine in tears; any of them I’ll probably not see again unless they venture out west. We left Pop, Melanie, Steph, Craig, and their gang at church this morning while we drove off in our rental micro-van to the airport. And Tripp and Karen took the keys from Mom and, as we taxied, were driving toward the coast to celebrate their first anniversary, then they’ll return to their respective homes, Michigan and Chicago.

It’s odd first of all going to an event like that. Essentially it’s like a college party, where you show up, you only know the people you brought, and perhaps the people who called to tell you about it. The first thing you do is look for the beer and a comfortable protected spot to use as home base and then you proceed to make idle chat with a whole bundle of folks who you may or may not run into again, but perhaps you’ll see them later on in the party, so your amiable. The only difference is everyone is a lot older, there isn’t any ping pong, and you’d best stay away from any attractive ladies – this is a Family Reunion. Fortunately this BBQ didn’t turn out anything like how I’d internally predicted it to.

The first part of my plan was on target, we arrived and looked for the beer, and really didn’t know anyone but Pop, but as the party went on our relatives were a bundle of warm, welcoming, good natured people. They might not have been Californians, though Andrew might hold that against them and for the most part that made it even easier to get along with, but they were decent human beings that apparently loved us just as much as they’d love any of their own children. The made jokes and more importantly could roll with ours, played football, cooked and ate food like no other, loved cats, were eager to share their tales and stories, and truly their welcome mats meant come on it, for real. I couldn’t have imagined it. Thus, when we left, there were tears in the eyes of our hosts, hearty hugs and hand shakes, and a real commitment from a good many of them, to keep in contact via emails or visits. I think some of us Californian folk would even consider moving there.

The life style was mellow, slow, comfortable. Perhaps this was just a show, perhaps there are uptight people everywhere in the world and we just so happened to have a weekend party without any of them showing up, or letting loose, but if that’s not the case, North Carolina is one of the most relaxed places in the world. … and remember just because they talk slow, doesn’t mean they are….

The night before we left.. last night, Anna some sort of second cousin removed and then re-added in, an 18 year old relative who’s just graduated and going to North Carolina State, took a couple of us out, kind of. After dinner we were antsy, we wanted to carouse, see, hear, do something.. anything to prevent sitting in the hotel room till we passed out. So she generously offered to take us about. After much harassment of things and places in the area I think she became frustrated with her perceived inability to ‘show us a good time’ in her home town. I didn’t mind, I had a great time just driving about Jamesville and such watching the dark fields and lit-up houses go by. One particular stop was upon the “Screaming Bridge,” a haunted bridge that, if you stopped up on it you could hear the screams of the woman who was hung off of it. I heard no screams but my own in an attempt to rile up the car a little, followed by pounding on the roof and driver’s window.. In any case – just like Mission Viejo, or any other home town – we perceive them as boring as we grow up there and then come to learn later that they’re built and filled with character and thrills. Well, maybe not the thrills, but certainly character and this North Carolina had it for sure.

With a quick stop at Bojangles in the morning for breakfast with Anna and her mom and then to the church to see everyone off, we drove from Jamesville to the airport in a hot and muggy environment and I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing it is that thus far every place I’ve visited on this earth has the exact same people living there. People who love and are loved, people who welcome, people who laugh, people who forget about what they’re bad at, people with compassion, and most of all, people who smile. Everyone, no matter who their master, and who their enemy, smiles and it’s great to know I’ve got kin in North Carolina who are damn good at it.



Germany beat Argentina and they advance into the semifinals, Ukrane goes home.

Today we put Pop in the car, got some cheese biscuts and sausage from the local BBQ joint and got a quick tour of the land of our kin in North Carolina.

We drove past the Jamesville cemetary, saw some Mizells and a Mizelle. Pop told us that there was another Mizell clan when he was growing up. I can only imagine that they were ruffians, trouble makers who managed to move to Mexico and start a new life under the psudonym of Sanchez.
Past a heap of ready corn, nearing tobaco, and new cotton fields, Pop narrated to us shorts of relatives, friends, and events from his childhood and subsequent returns home. “Down that lane on at the end of that field was the local country store, that fella was so nice…. Right there at the corner of that corn field, this place was once all trees and the house was tucked away into them…That’s where I was born… This house use to be the best in the county. This is the first house that had gas lighting. …Mom grew up in this house.” Mom drove slowly and irratically as all of us passengers were half enthraled with the stores and history of the area and half scared Mom would drive into a corn field because she thought Pop wanted to stop there. Finally we turned right past a group of goats and found an old drive wih a farmer working the land and an old house in front of a series of barns and such. We were interested in the house. Unfortunatly I can’t remember the story – the history – but it was there. Perhaps I’ll add later.

The house was old. Wooden. Tin roof. Brick fireplaces on both sides. A wrap around portch. Boarded up windows. Lightening Rods. Surrounded by damn green grass and fields of cotton and tobacco. ……

We returned to sisters where we set up tents, tables, and chairs for the evenings dinning and socializing in the damp heat of the east coast. I don’t sweat this much in Arizona – that sweet tea is fantastic for breaking the heat. A beer, traditional football game, and one injury later (to Steve, a team mate of mine) we were ready for a shower, grace, and burgers and beans. I was sedated and calm. A Carolina storm rolled in, the sun dimmed and disappeared, and the bats followed the lightening bugs into the evening air. It was pleasant. Andrew and Megan got a mason jar from Grant and we caught a few buggs and watched them in captivity. Andrew taught the kitten to hunt them and I enjoyed some time in the hammock. What day is it? It doesn’t matter. It’s Holiday. Tripp left to get Karen from the airport and we hitched a ride back to the hotel to await tomorrow’s meals.

Family on the Carolina Coast..

It’s the first time I’ve been to the East Coast, it’s the first time I’ve been to North Carolina, it’s the first time I’ve meet the larger part of my Dad’s extended family.

Pop, Dad’s dad, moved to California leaving his mom and three younger sisters in North Carolina. Pop regularly visits this coast and his sisters via the 40 and his 50 food motor home (roughly), alas we never ‘made it out.’ I suppose it’s tough enough to manage a family of six getting about town, to move them 3000 miles east for a week would be … a challenge and so for a long time I wouldn’t know much beyond the family that showed up to Pops for Thanksgiving and Easter dinner and street football games. A year and a half ago Dad died. Pop was making his drive again and told us this would perhaps be his last time driving the 15 day trek. His birthday is this weekend. Dad’s siblings were going to be there. This time there was noreason it couldn’t be easy. Mom asked all the brothers, gave us the dates, and without a hitch … or so I think, we had tickets to the coast and were on our way, I was going to get to the East Coast and meet a bundle of folks who knew Dad and Pop that I’d never met. neat.

Plane flights are plane flights. My flight to Ecuador didn’t feel any different than my flight to St. Louis and until we really hit wall of heated moisture in the air outside the baggage claim doors this time, I hadn’t yet put myself into Virginia and onto the east coast. Here there is green, there are trees, there is moisture flowing free from the sky, free in the Air! We found our white rental mini-van and soon after discovered that just because it has 6 seats doesn’t mean they’re built for people. Even my legs were pushed against the seat in front of me. Ugh. Fortunately we only had to drive 2 hours to the true coast to touch the water and then another 2 to Jamesville, NC 27846, where Pop and the family were already eating and drinking and smiling.

To the coast we drove. The water was warm, the sand interestingly granular and large, and the waves horribly non-existent. East coast waves, as I’ve been informed before and ten again today, only occur from hurricanes and, new to me, from Nor-Easters. Neither of which were present today. But there was sand and shore and I was indeed on the East Coast, cool. One more tick off my national summer tour. As we drove inland, away from the coast, we went over miles of bridge, which was cool, passed signs warning of Alligators, Bears, and Fox, which was interesting, and a whole lot of crops of Corn, which was .. well different. Little did I know I’d be eating some of that corn a little while later and it would be Gooooooo-oood, I mean good! Grant was driving by now and we meandered about the small roads, past a school and a church and houses all around and finally found Pops motor home. Here we go.

There he was outside waiting as a Pop should, resolute but independent enough that we’d quickly greet him before he had to wait too long. This neighborhood was quaint. It had a bold character to it. The lawns were green and soft, the trees years outside of their adolescence, the yard fence free and full of Fourth of July decor. Reminding me of another wholesome family event, we emptied out of the cramp micro-van, talking with Pop and beginning the indroduction to relatives. There weren’t too many, but more than I could remember the names of at that instant. As it is Pop’s three sisters and their families were fairly represented and all presented themselves at various points through the evening. We walked through the back yard of the first house to see the house that Pop grew up in and his mother had lived until she died, then just a couple of house up the street and across was another sisters house. Filled with chairs and tables this was the dinning hall. Pleasant with bird feeders and delicately placed nic-knacks. the house had that charm about it… the one that we try to repeat on the west coast but only find by shopping at target and k-mart. This charm was genuine, a true collection of novelties and toys over the ages. One particular squirrel feeder was a wooden piece secured to a tree with a stool and a pike upon which an ear of corn was placed. According to the residents, squirrels actually sit down and enjoy the corn – remarkable. There were white window trimmings and hand dipped candles along side an easy chair and broadband Internet connection. Against my previous notions – as lacking as they were – this place was welcoming, it was family, it was home. There were hugs all around, smiles from everyone, and one hell of a dinner. We were even introduced to a neighbor as “Kin Folk,” and that just made me feel all warm. Tonight we’re at the Days Inn – using their Wi-Fi – and tomorrow I look forward to getting another glimpse of N. Carolina and family, and evenings activities which include but are not limited to a good ole fashioned ‘cook out.’